By Tsegai Berhane (PhD) Mekelle University, School of Law


As I am writing this short article at the eve of the historic 2020 Tigray Election, I am very excited to be part of the history and I have the feeling that this election will change everything. It is a game changer and puts the standard high for other nations and nationalities in Ethiopia. The election underlines that self-determination (which is hard fought right) is not subject to negotiation, rather it is an inherent right nations and nationalities in Ethiopia fought for generations.

Of course, at this juncture, one might pause a question—why bother about election in Tigray? To state the obvious, as Tigreans we have to elect our leaders or in other words we have to establish self-government which will advance all our liberties as enshrined in both federal and regional constitutions. As Tigreans, we strongly believe that we are free when we elect our leaders. It is our firm belief that the source of power is election and we want to convey this message to all our sister nations and nationalities in Ethiopia and the international community. We want to show to the world we are free people who are able to decide on our fate. Gone are the days where we expect self-anointed leaders either from the church or other places. Thus, our motto—Tigray Shall Elect!!!

In my opinion, this historic election puts our federalism into test. It will boost true federalism where the rights of all nations, nationalities and peoples in Ethiopia is respected. It clearly and loudly declares to other nations and nationalities and to the international community that election is an integral part of self-determination. It is a hard-fought right no one can give or take away from us. Furthermore, this election signals a long journey in the right direction to democracy and development. Of course, the long journey will not be rosy but when Tigray plunged itself to such a good cause it is prepared to bear its consequences. It signals the hard fact that whether shining or raining, we will always stand for nations, nationalities and peoples self-determination right. It is like a covenant of solidarity.


In this pivotal election, it is really heartwarming to see the regional ruling party and opposition parties campaigning all over Tigray in a very peaceful and friendly manner. The mutual respect among the parties and the way they treat each other with dignity is a new culture in the making. I am very proud to witness this historic moment.

Above all, I am very happy to see the effort made by the party leaders to win the hearts and minds of the electorate (Tigray People). In this regard, I consider myself lucky to see such a civilized dialogue in my life time. At this point, I must admit that Tigray is blessed with very vibrant and smart young politicians—this will also change everything in the future of Tigray. It signals that Tigray will prevail!!!

I believe, the civilized discourse is not only among parties but the people of Tigray has already joined the dialogue and this will change everything. It is amazing to see people from the layman to the elite discussing and analyzing politics in places such as the cafes and restaurants. To be honest, I sometimes find it difficult to see the boundary between the elite and the layman in Tigray. I observe the formally uneducated ones explaining politics succinctly based on their lived experiences. To me, this signals in Tigray there will not be a monopoly of idea. Tigray has become a big market for ideas and the electorate will decide the winner. From now onwards, parties in Tigray will be forced to win the hearts and minds of the people, no easy way to power. Tigray people will start to say no more empty promises, show me practical achievements. Tigray people will start to make inventory of all the promises made by the parties. Or as the saying goes, it will start to say “I will not count my chickens before they are hatched.” To me, this also changes everything in Tigray in the future.

Last but not least, in my view, the cardinal principle in this historic election for all parties should be, once the electorate (Tigray people) speaks through his card, there is no option but to accept the verdict and get ready for the next cycle of election. After all democracy is a long journey and we have started it with this historic election. Of course, dissatisfactions with elections will always be there but if there is any, let the law take its due course. Tigray will let the rule of law to prevail!!!

Tigray Shall Elect!!!

Tsegai Berhane (PhD)

Mekelle University, School of Law