In a press conference held on Wednesday, December 13, 2023, in Mekelle, Tigray, Salsay Weyane Tigray (SaWoT), a prominent Tigrayan nationalist legal opposition party, announced significant developments. Recognized as a provisionally legal opposition force in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the party conducted its second congress, a milestone it claims signifies a crucial step in its political journey.
During the congress on December 9th and 10th, crucial documents, including the article of association, the by-law, and the party program, were thoroughly discussed and subsequently approved, according to the representatives. The briefing by the newly appointed Chairperson, Alula Hailu Nega, along with his deputy Gebretensae Woldemichael and Kiros Hailesilassie, the newly assigned head of the Public Relations and Media Section, provided insights about the decisions.
The focal points of the press conference were the approval of a revised by-law and the stance on establishing Tigray’s independent statehood as a strategic goal—subjects of intense debate among the more than 300 participants of the congress, who came from all parts of Tigray. The revision of the by-law led to a restructuring of the party’s internal departments, and there was a consensus on the relevance of the National Leadership, a term that parallels the Central Committee in communist parties, solidifying the existing organization’s executive structure.
The newly elected National Leadership, comprising 25 members and featuring predominantly new faces, appointed Alula Hailu Nega as the chairman, succeeding Hayalu Godefay, who had led the party since its establishment in May 2018. Gebretensae Woldemichael, a graduate in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Mekelle Institute of Technology, assumed the role of vice chairman.
Party representatives revealed that this congress, the second of its kind, took place nearly four years after the inaugural congress in the first week of January 2019. The first congress occurred nine months after the party’s establishment in May 2018. The party is now five years old and was established by young Tigrayans, who were the majority of them born, educated, and graduated in the last 30 years under the EPRDF regime.
In addition to ratifying the party program that outlines the ambitious goal of achieving Tigray’s independent statehood, the congress engaged in comprehensive discussions on critical regional issues. These included the ongoing genocidal war, drought-induced starvation, occupation of sovereign Tigrayan territories by Eritrean external forces, forces from the neighbouring region of Amhara, along with their guardian Federal Forces, and internal political challenges, the party representatives stated.
The leaders announced that the congress entrusted the newly elected National Leadership with the crucial task of strengthening the party, emphasizing its pivotal role in addressing the existing political void in Tigray.
Ideologically, Salsay Weyane Tigray (SaWoT) party announces its embrace of social democracy, while the ruling party, TPLF, is known for its Marxist-Leninist Communist ideology. Other opposition parties in Tigray have mostly declared their commitment to a liberal approach.