Mr. Getachew, tear down the wall!


Decades of authoritarian rule in Tigray have erected an ideological, political, and mental wall between the region’s political leaders and its people which is long overdue for dismantling.

Brick by brick, the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has fortified itself in power by building a wall around itself, and has become increasingly divorced from the people it once relied on to sustain its resistance struggle against the brutal Derg regime.

Since taking power in Addis Ababa over three decades ago and being forced to relinquish it in 2018 then retreating to control Tigray, a legion of party cadres has convinced themselves that they have a God-given, or revolution given, right to influence public policy and actions.

While there is no physical wall in Tigray, as there was separating East and West Germany during the Cold War, the time is long overdue to “tear down this wall,” in the words of U.S. president Ronald Reagan in 1987.

Two and a half years after Reagan’s directive to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the Berlin Wall had come down and Russia began embarking on what has been a rocky and arduous but, one could argue, necessary transition towards political and economic liberalization.

As Tigray’s new interim president, you, Getachew Reda, must fulfill your promises to empower the region’s progressive forces rather than allowing the old guard to continue its dominance.

In doing so, you must first tear down the wall between the region’s leaders and its people.

Party Control

Tigray’s ruling party is run through a Central Committee and politburo that are not elected and hence do not represent the voice of the people yet have tremendous power at their disposal. This power extends beyond the party itself, and pervades governance and public administration in Tigray.

There are no independent institutions in the region with the courage to speak truth to power. The government-funded media and tightly controlled civil society organizations, and even religious institutions, always dance to the tune of the orders of the government, which is to say the party.

A mindset has been irresponsibly and shortsightedly instilled in government officials, even in some ordinary citizens, that the party, government, and people are one and the same, thereby granting the TPLF the right to rule until kingdom come.

A toothless, rubber-stamping regional parliament that takes its orders from party higher-ups has been controlled in its entirety by the same ruling party for three decades.

Opposition parties are depicted not just as adversaries of the TPLF but also as the enemy of the people for the simple reason that they subscribe to a different political ideology, advocate for alternative public policies, and publicly declare that they can do the job better.

This all has created fertile ground for political patronage, cronyism, and nepotism. Politics is run through shady backroom deals, public resources are mismanaged, particularly the land, and public services such as water are not delivered properly.


What’s more, ill-advised policies cannot be critically assessed, remedied, or reversed as problems are viewed through a partisan party lens and from the standpoint of protecting one’s political turf and economic interests.

Reform Agenda

After tearing down that wall with all its ideological baggage, political transgressions, and leadership failures, you, Mr. President, must play a leading role in aspiring to and working towards creating genuine democracy and a reformed parliamentary system whereby:

  1. Political party roles, duties, and responsibilities are clearly restricted to party politics, such as developing party policies and election platforms, selecting candidates for nomination, membership recruitment and fundraising, organizing debates, and party conferences.
  2. Free and fair elections take place at regular intervals.
  3. Power and decision-making lie where they should, in the hands of elected officials who are given their mandate by the people.
  4. The president and their cabinet are solely accountable to parliament.
  5. Legislators, through bipartisan parliamentary committees, collaboratively work for the common good of their constituents and the betterment of the region at large.
  6. The media, civil society, and religious organizations are set free to express their views regardless of whether they support or criticize government policy and decisions.
  7. Every effort is made to deliver public goods and services efficiently and effectively.
  8. Diversity is encouraged both in terms of political thought, meaning opposition parties are not stifled, and representation along the lines of gender, ethnicity, region, class, and religion.

It’s understandable that you will be unable to accomplish all these goals through an interim government and in a limited period of time. Yet you certainly can pave the way towards these goals by first and foremost tearing down the above-mentioned wall.

Leadership Needed

So, Mr. Getachew, you will do the people of Tigray a great, historic favor if you open the gate to introduce Tigray’s version of glasnost (openness and transparency) as well as perestroika (the policy or practice of restructuring or reforming the economic and political system).

The establishment, with an undying sense of entitlement and the special interests they nurtured for years, and naysayers in general, would assert that it’s impossible to do this in Tigray or that you don’t have the mandate to do it.

Nevertheless, the truth is, neither do the powermongers have any right to stay the course. But they surely will act as though they have the mandate. And their love for power and prestige is certainly not to be underestimated.

Members of the old guard relentlessly work around the clock with the objective of clinging onto or returning to power to continue having things their way.

While there is a time and place for political and diplomatic niceties, doing the right thing and making tough decisions even when it’s opposed by influential adversaries or special interests is indeed what prevails in the do or die world of politics.

In reality, it appears that the train of change has already left the station and there is no way of stopping it. So, if you remain silent or passive, it’s only a matter of time before someone else steps up to the plate to lead the reform agenda and save the people of Tigray from their seemingly never-ending pain and suffering.

Yet, who knows if you, Mr. President, have come to your highest position for such a time as this? If you are really seeking a quick recovery from the catastrophic war, along with genuine democracy and socioeconomic development for Tigray, tear down the wall and open the gates for long overdue political, economic, and social reforms the people of Tigray deserve.

Query or correction? Email us

Main Image: UN Media Forum on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; 3 November 2016; by UNICEF Ethiopia; licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

This is the author’s viewpoint. However, Ethiopia Insight will correct clear factual errors.

Published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. You may not use the material for commercial purposes.

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About the author

Ghirmai Zemichael

The author is using a pseudonym. He works for a development organization in Tigray.


  • Tigrayans are able to do all that by themselves , at the right time, once the occupied territories of Tigray returned and elections are held.
    The very idea to knock down an established party & its tentacles at this stage is tantamount to surrendering what is left of Tigray to 4 kilo butchers , expansionist Amhara and genocidal Isaias. There is no question about that! Timing is the essence.

  • TPLF, with all its shortcomings, it leads the whole Tegaru to fight against the oppressors. It is a millions party, based and originated from Tigray and is the only existing for the last half of a century in East Africa. Who led the people in the struggle; led the country to the highest economic, social, political, diplomatic and military level in its history.
    Do you remember that a comprehensive and years-long coordinated ideological, political and psychological campaign was being waged from all directions not only against the TPLF but against all Tegaru?

    The whole east Africa is the land of dictators. Genociders and sort of instabilities. None of its part is free from -authoritarian rule. A writer who knows that says “there was dictatorship in Tigray”, he is not only naïve but he wants to learn the political A-B-C by Tigrayans. No!
    The TPLF is a strong monument built on a strong popular foundation. Not a wall built to protect its power.
    Since TPLF took power in the Country with other sister parties for more than three decades and left EPRDF coalition in 2019, it has made diplomatic and political preparations to defend the slander and campaign against Tigrayans in the name of TPLF.
    When the invasion began TPLF led its people to confront the combined forces coming to cleanse the people from earth; from history and from all human minds. They used their maximum effort to do so. Then we lost a lot. But it’s true the TPLF leadership was our sort of survival.
    TPLF leadership is not a divine, but earthly and is Tegaru’s sprouted in Tigray and developed in Tigray based on the wisdom of Tegaru’s leadership;
    The invasion attempted from the south and north to break the strong relation b/n the people of Tigray and its leading party /the TPLF/ / your imaginary Germen wall/ has been aborted due the great survival resistance led by that party.
    “As the new interim president”, your advice to Getachew Reda is purposeful and loaded with your envoys wishes. He now is in a duty line working with all Tegaru inside and diaspora communities in all parameters.
    TPLF leadership and members possess wisdom and accumulated experience and the leaders are progressives who have brought Ethiopia to the heights it has reached as a country. We now are preparing to rebuild Tigray removing away all the mischievous obstacles lead by the party you hate more..
    Ethiopia, which raided against this ideology, would see the current situation and understand that it was the source of its failure. Nowadays in Tigray; there is no any ideological wall to be demolished. But structures to be established, strengthened and improved.

  • A well thought out and very well written piece. Very timely and very clear. As the author said, it’s way beyond time to ‘liberate’ the people of Tigray from its own son’s and daughters who ruled over them, without bringing any noticeable change in their lives. I join the writer in saying, “Mr Getachew, tear down the wall”.

  • What is this? A prayer? A personal letter to Mr. Getachew? The mistake of Ethiopian studies and certainly of TPLF for the last 3 decades is ‘ vague’ talks, assumptions, …can someone write with data, facts, etc…

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