In 2018/19, Abiy did everything he can to prevent the Sidama from voting in a referendum to achieve Statehood. He and his neo-nafxanyaa supporters ridiculed the Ejjetto. They mocked the people. They denounced the people’s demands as battle cries of savages. They demonized the campaigners. They securitized the whole movement. They killed hundreds (167 in one day). They detained hundreds more. They passed an unconstitutional state of emergency intending to silence the people through repressive and brutal interventions. But they didn’t stop the people. Eventually, Sidama voted. Sidama spoke unequivocally, and achieved Statehood. Abiy was defied. Ethiopia’s rule of violence was defied. The people prevailed.
Throughout last year, Abiy did everything he can to stop Tigray from going to the polls. He and his supporters mocked Tigray’s insistence on constitutionalism, federalism, self-rule, and electoral renewal of the mandate to rule. They openly defied the constitution and the imperative of conducing regular elections thereof. They manipulated the electoral and interpretive institutions and trivialized the constitutional processes thereof. They mobilized government and private media institutions to misrepresent, dehumanize, antagonize, insinuate, demonize, vilify, and intimidate the people wholesale. They subjected persons of Tigraian origin to indiscriminate acts of persecution, often trying to pile guilt by association. They used blunt and systematic tactics of imposing fear and isolation on Tigray. They threatened the region with the use of force, even an all-out war. They instrumentalized the House of Federation to threaten a Federal Intervention order (never mind the unconstitutionality). They threatened to block the region’s share of grants and subsidies.
Yesterday, Abiy personally sought to demean the election by giving it all sorts of degrading names (የጨረቃ ምርጫ፣ የጉልት ምርጫ፣ የእድር ምርጫ etc). But neither Abiy nor his partners could prevent Tigray from going to the polls. With grit and determination, Tigray went to the polls resisting all the uncanny provocations from the Federal Government.
Today, Tigray defied all the odds to vote in an election that means much more than what it actually is. Tigray voted in defiance of lawlessness, authoritarianism, and state sanctioned brigandage on the part of Abiy. More importantly, Tigray voted in defense of the popular sovereignty, self-rule, and democracy. Above all, Tigray voted to say NO to Abiy’s misguided project of undoing the constitution and the multinational federalism thereof. It has now become obvious that the election is a referendum on Abiy, and Abiy is rejected conclusively.
Yes, Tigray voted in a historical election today, not just to elect its regional representatives (and leaders) but also to reaffirm and uphold the constitutional ideals of self-determination, popular sovereignty, multinational federalism, democratic self-rule, equality among groups, and preservation of collective agency. Tigray voted, implicitly, in defense of the rights of states. In deed, in Today’s election, it is not just Tigray that voted; it is all the other (subaltern) nations that also voted, albeit vicariously.
Election is about people chosing persons who can make decisions in their name and on their behalf. It is an affirmation of the fundamental axiom that power belongs to the people who, through election, give mandate to act in public offices as their representatives.
Tigray voted. Tigray won. It is now done. Muramte!