Welkait Amhara Identity Committee (WAIC), a pressure group
representing the Welkait people in Amhara state; Tigrayan
People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the lead party in the ruling
coalition of the Ethiopia People's Revolutionary Democratic
What & When
Thousands of people protested in northern Gondar town on July 30
and 31 to demand for their town to be moved from under the
administration of Tigray State to that of Amhara State. The people
consider themselves to be Amhara in ethnicity and they say they
would like to be governed by Amhara leaders, not Tigrayan ones.
The protests were led by the pressure group WAIC, whose
protesting members were arrested two weeks ago for allegedly
colluding with local rebels and the government of neighbouring
country Eritrea—an allegation WAIC has refuted.
Amhara and Tigray are neighbouring regions in the north of
Ethiopia, with Amhara to the northwest and Tigray to the north of
Amhara. Since the early nineties, ethnicity has been the key
determinant of political representation and the organisation of
administrative regions. The mapping of internal borders along
ethnic lines hasn't been without challenge, with some parts
overlapping which can cause disputes between ethnic groups about
where they belong.
The protests in Gondar have also happened in the wake of
protests in the Oromia region which snakes through the centre of
Ethiopia, bordering South Sudan in the west and Kenya to the south.
Here, the people were offended because the central government
(dominated by Tigrayans) wanted to expand the capital Addis Ababa
to their region, a move which has been resisted on the grounds of
The Tigrayans make up only 6% of the Ethiopian population,
compared to the Oromias (34%) and the Amharas (27%). There's
been growing dissent among these large ethnic groups toward the
Tigrayans' political dominance despite their minority status.
This is believed to be the underlying reason for these recent
The undercurrent of dissent finds its root in the lack of
political representativeness in Ethiopia - the governing
coalition is primarily made up of the Tigray people- and
increasingly, even under the tightly-controlled political regime,
people are finding their voice to challenge the status quo. The
government has intimated that neighbouring Eritrea is behind the
unrest and will likely seek to quell dissension, while the regional
authority in Amhara says it will respond to grievances which it
considers are more to do with good governance. Increasing
displays of discontent with the ethnicised political structures in
the country threaten the very fabric of Ethiopian society and even
if governance remains largely unchanged in the near term, the signs
of a changing grassroots dynamic cannot be ignored.
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