The Ethiopian government has lifted immunity for the President of Tigray People’s Liberation Front to face criminal charges; and announced a transitional government to take over the “rescued” areas of the northern federal region.
The decision came after the Federal House of Representatives voted to have 39 leaders of the TPLF, led by current Tigray President Dr Debretsion Gebremichael, face the law.
The TPLF leader had been a member of the House of Representatives alongside Getachew Reda, Asmelash Woldesellassie and Abay Tsehaye, who were all stripped of immunity to face criminal charges, according to a statement released by the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s Office.
The move means the TPLF leadership can no longer use their parliamentary privilege to dodge the law. The statement did not clarify which criminal charges the 39 will face, although the Ethiopian government has already declared the TPLF as an “extremist group.”
On Thursday, Defence Minister Kenea Yadeta said the military had “rescued” certain regions of Tigray and would be installing a transitional government to manage the affairs there.
“The transitional administration will be formed in parts of the Tigray Regional State that have been set free from the extremist group of TPLF,” Kenea said, according to a report by the Ethiopian News Agency.
Kenea said the provisional leadership and the captured TPLF fighters will be handled by the committee on the State of Emergency in Tigray.
The Ethiopian government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week launched what it called a law enforcement operation targeting leaders of the TPLF. It accused TPLF of attacking a military command run by the Ethiopian National Defence Forces.
The TPLF denies the attack happened. But the operation has seen the ENDF launch aerial attacks on Tigray, forcing civilians to flee into the neighbouring Sudan.
On Thursday, Dr Abiy’s office said it was also fighting fake news including exaggerations on the number of civilians affected by the operation. Claims also emerged that authorities were detaining anyone from the region, including family members of those seen as ringleaders of the TPLF.
“The rule of law enforcement operation does not target individuals based on identity as being purported,” the PM said.
Kenea had earlier told a news conference that the false information is being spread by the TPLF to gain sympathy and soil the name of Ethiopian security agencies “undermining its criminal act of subversion and by claiming the defence force attacking civilians and infrastructure”.
“We urge everyone including reputable international organisations to refrain from sharing unsubstantiated data and statistics on current operations, that does not reflect the reality on the ground.”
The TPLF, on Wednesday, had claimed the Ethiopian government was involved in “ethnic cleansing” of the Tigray people and called on the international community to help stop the operation.
With authorities shutting down communication channels to Tigray, however, it has become difficult to verify the claims from both sides.