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A de facto state short of international recognition or inward looking government of Tigray within Ethiopia?

A de facto state short of international recognition or inward looking government of Tigray within Ethiopia?

Gebrehiwot Hadush, Mekelle University, PhD Student at KUleuven, Belgium

† 17 Nov.2019

Apparently, the idea of de facto state has become a dominant talking point seemingly new helmet in the TPLF house as pointed out in the recent Woyen Magazine. I see many supporters and critics take for granted that TPLF decided to set up a de facto state to prepare Tigray exit from Ethiopia. The term is sweeping in that there are long standing debates regarding the relationship between the mother (former state) and the de facto state as well as the place and application of international law in the de facto state.† However, relatively there is established body of knowledge regarding the nature and features of de facto state. Among others, one aspects of de facto state is determined state of mind of the leadership and its people not to abide and adhere to the constitution of the mother country or a country where the de facto state breaks away. This in a way expresses a willful intent of the de facto state to throw away the constitution of the federation. I have mentioned constitution because it is the higher source of authority that defines the division of power between different layers of governments, say federal vs. state government. Usually, a determination to set up a de facto state in such cases would mean a self declared independent state short of international recognition. A de facto state short of an aspiration to be an independent state is barely considered a de facto state. In other words a merely inward looking perspective of a government does not make it a de facto state. The government of Tigray has been much more an inward looking after Abiy Ahmed took control of the Federal government. In my view it has achieved enormous success in mobilizing the Tigrean people for unity and solidarity in maintaining peace and order along with remarkable infrastructural developments.† But as I understand, TPLF has never cast any shadow of doubt that Tigray remains part of Ethiopia. So, does the TPLF mean it when it purportedly considers de facto state?

In my reading, Woyen has mentioned the phrase de facto state only twice but very slightly and lightly without explaining its context and content. As Woyen claims, TPLF would resort in to a de facto state form to protect Tigray from any threat of attack from anywhere. There is no claim in Woyen that de facto state is a conscious and deliberate action or decision of the TPLF intended to realize the independence of Tigray. In my view, TPLF has no plan or intention to forge out and spearhead any movement for exit from Ethiopia. Last August, during the second global conference of Tigrean scholars, TPLF has overly pronounced that the fate of Tigray is intuitively connected with a safe Ethiopia (ደሕንነት ትግራይ ኣብ ደሕንነት ኢትዮጵያ ይረጋገፅ). In fact it was common for many TPLF elites to down play and despise any tendencies to fall out from Ethiopia. Unless the clock is changed in the TPLF house, Ethiopia remains the big cake at least for the big guys to say the least.

So why are people over blowing the idea of de facto state when its Ďauthorí gives no adequate explanation about it? Or is it a social movement where TPLF is only part of it? In any case, what do we mean by a de facto state of Tigray? For me it is disastrous to move north or south without clarity and sober discussions at all level.

While much is expected from intellectuals to elaborate the concept and ongoing developments of de facto state mind sets in Tigray, I believe the onus is on the TPLF to sufficiently explain its aspiration at least as it has claimed to set up a de facto state.

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