daniel bekele, former political prisoner and africa director at new york based human rights watch, now heading the government's human rights commission, speaks during a reuters interview in addis ababa

Ethiopia arrests former government officials from Tigray

The Ethiopian authorities have detained several senior officials from the Tigray region. The head of the state-appointed human rights commission said on Friday that the authorities also arrested former government officials.

Daniel Bekele, Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, confirmed the arrests but did not name the officials. Reportedly, some of the prisoners had been sent to Tigray’s neighbouring region of Afar. Daniel reportedly told Reuters, “We know about the arrests of at least eight people.”

The government has previously sought to arrest leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The group is reportedly fighting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.

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According to the sources, 12 Tigrayan officials, an activist, and another man were arrested in a series of raids on March 7 and 8. The former head of Tigray’s justice bureau, Abera Nigus, was also arrested. However, they have not yet been charged.

Fight between TPLF and the government

The fight erupted between the TPLF and the central government in November 2020. Nobel prize winner and prime minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive against the TPLF. The Ethiopian federal forces have been fighting the TPLF since November 2020.

In 2020, the military took control of most of the Tigray region within three weeks and the government-appointed an interim administration, which many of the arrested officials served in. However, the Tigrayan forces forced the military to pull out of the Tigray region at the end of June 2021. In February 2022, Abiy Ahmed opened the door for negotiations with rebel groups in the country. His party pledged to deal with corruption and continue to defend Ethiopia’s sovereignty.

In November, 15000 Tigrayan civilians were arrested or imprisoned across Ethiopia. However, the government has repeatedly said it is fighting against the TPLF and not Tigrayans in general. The police officers have also denied targeting Tigrayans due to their ethnicity.