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 Front (EPRDF).
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 alleged encroachment.
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 protests.
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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