TPLF’s Land Claim Follows Trails of Tigrean Temporary Farm Workers and Settlers.
By Abel Kebedom
By now every Ethiopian and Eritrean citizen knows that the final goal of the Tigrai peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) is to secede from Ethiopia as an independent "Republic of Greater Tigrai". The implementation of the 1976 TPLF manifesto that advocates for Tigrai Republic had two important stages: First annexing land from regions in Ethiopia and a second acquiring land and sea outlet from Eritrea. In fact, the 1976 TPLF Manifesto clearly indicates the areas that need to be incorporated to Tigrai so that it becomes a viable republic. What is surprising is that all the areas that were mentioned in the Manifesto are the areas that currently have become the sources of conflict with regions inside Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea. What is also true that, when investigated thoroughly, it is not difficult to see that those TPLF land claims follow Trail of Tigrean Temporary Farm Workers and settlers. Such truth can easily be found in TPLF’s land claim against Eritrea and Ethiopia’s Amhara administrative region that includes formerly known Begemider. Other TPLF Land claims against Wollo also exhibit such trends. Let’s see each TPLF land claim and examine its inherent characteristics.
Before 1991, Wolkaite Tsegede was known as part of the Begemider administrative region bordering Tigrai. All evidence, including those came from previous Tigrai region administrators, indicate that Wolkaite Tsegede had never been under the administrative region of Tigrai. The fact that the land was vast farm area, commercial farmers from Begemider and neighboring Eritrea use to own large farms that often required additional labor. Again Tigreans use to cross to Wolkaite Tsegede and work in those large farms.
Historical records also indicate that through time some of the temporary Tigrean farm workers have settled in the area. Moreover, after TPLF started the struggle for the liberation of Tigrai it continued to pacify the area from rich Amhara farmers and increased the number of Tigrean settlers. When TPLF came to power in 1991, in the pretext of the realty that was established by Temporary Tigrean farm workers and settlers, it used the language card to snatch the Wolkaite Tsegede area from Begemeder and merge it with Tigray. Since language often crosses administrative boundaries, the claim that boundaries should be demarcated based on language is nothing but a weak argument to achieve previously set hidden agenda to give Tigray vast farm land and land access route to Sudan.
Raya including Ashengie Alamata and Kobo.
Following the logic discussed above, TPLF annexed Wollo’s Raya including Ashengie Alamata and Kobo. Raya Azebo was known to be the bread basket of the Wollo administrative region. Although it is prone to seasonal draught, during some good rainy season, farmers in the area can produce a significant volume of crop that could supply the regional markets for more than a year or even more. Moreover, the area is known to be a drought season grazing area for cattle coming from southern Tigrai as far as Mekelle. Hence it is clear that due to over used land in the Tigrai region, Tigrean farmers and seasonal workers often migrate to areas in neighboring regions that exhibit better farm productivity and grazing land. On that account, TPLF claim to incorporate these areas in to the Tigrai region is as a result of such historical seasonal migration of Tigrai farmers and Temporary farm workers.
As confirmed by the Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Commission (EBBC) the Eritrean colonial maps that were drawn based on the agreement between Italy and former Ethiopians rulers show that Badme is well inside Eritrea. Moreover, historical records, that were obtained from the Badme village administration, indicate that before the 1998-2000 war more that 90% of the Badme area residents were Eritreans. The few Tigreans who established residence in Badme came to the area as Temporary farm workers. It is also true that currently TPLF is trying to establish a new realty in the area, mainly by bringing new settlers from other parts of Tigrai. However, such action does not change the fact that Tigrean residents in Badme are either Temporary farm workers or settlers who were brought after the 1998-2000 border war. Hence it is plausible to conclude that TPLF’s Claim against Eritrea followed Trail of Tigrean Temporary Farm Works and settlers.
It is true that TPLF has given up some land in the Afar region. However, the reason for that temporary sacrifice of land is because it was considered as part of the second plan. After TPLF finishes annexing land from other Ethiopian administrative regions, the next stage was to give Tigrai access to the sea through the Afar region. That means to get access to the sea, TPLF will need to annex land from the afar region. Hence TPLF’s argument that it gave land to the afar region to implement the language based demarcation is a simple ploy to implement the first stage of the 1976 Manifesto. Had the TPLF 1998-2000 war to annex Assab succeeded, the second stage, that advocates for the Tigray republic with its gates to Sudan and the Red Sea could have been a realty. Fortunately, due to the strong resistance of the Ethiopian and Eritrean people now such TPLF ploy seems to be a reason for its downfall.
The current Crisis in Ethiopia is rooted on TPLF agenda to annex land from administrative regions in Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea using the pretext that follows the Trail of Tigrean Temporary farm workers and settlers so that economically viable Tigrai republic could be established under article 39 of the Woyene drafted Ethiopian constitution. Hence it is important that TPLF future activities be viewed under such context and the Ethiopian and Eritrean people align their struggle against the TPLF hidden agenda accordingly.