Debretsion Gebremichael

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Debretsion Gebremichael
ደብረጽዮን ገብረሚካኤል
Debretsion in 2014
President of the Tigray Region
In office
9 January 2018 – 3 March 2023
Disputed with Mulu Nega
from 13 November 2020 to 6 May 2021
Disputed with Abraham Balay
from 6 May 2021
Vice PresidentFetlework Gebregziabher
Preceded byAbay Weldu
Succeeded byGetachew Reda (Interim Regional Administration of Tigray)
Chairman of the Tigray People's
Liberation Front
Assumed office
29 November 2017
DeputyFetlework Gebregziabher
Preceded byAbay Weldu
Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia
In office
29 November 2012 – 6 November 2016
Serving with Demeke Mekonnen
and Aster Mamo
Prime MinisterHailemariam Desalegn
Preceded byHailemariam Desalegn
Minister of Communications and Information Technology
In office
10 October 2012 – 8 January 2018
Prime MinisterHailemariam Desalegn
Preceded byPosition established
(Promoted to ministry status)
Director of Ethiopian Information and Communication Development Agency
In office
19 September 2005 – 10 October 2010
Prime MinisterMeles Zenawi
Preceded byAyenew Bitewelign
Succeeded byPosition abolished
(Promoted to ministry status)
Personal details
Bornearly 1960s
Shire, Tigray Province, Ethiopian Empire
Political partyTigray People's Liberation Front
Alma materAddis Ababa University
(BSc, MSc)
Capella University (PhD)

Debretsion Gebremichael (Tigrinya: ደብረጽዮን ገብረሚካኤል, pronunciation: [dɐbrɐtsʼjon gɐbrɐmikäe̯l]) is an Ethiopian politician and the chairman of Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) he was also the president of the Tigray Region.[1][2] His position as titular head of the Tigray Region was disputed by the federal government of Ethiopia who in November 2020 appointed Mulu Nega as the chief executive of the Transitional Government of Tigray, succeeded by Abraham Belay. From July 2021 to March 2023, Debretsion again led the Tigray Region, while Abraham Belay left the transitional government to become Ethiopia's minister of Defence.

His party nominally won all 152 contested seats and 98.2% of the votes of the 2020 Tigray regional election,[3] which was held in defiance of the federal government that had postponed the elections because of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ethiopia.

Early life[edit]

Debretsion was born and raised in the town of Shire in Tigray. He gave up his engineering studies at Addis Ababa University to join the TPLF in the 1970s and fight the Derg military junta.[4][5] He was sent to Italy on a false passport and received training in communications technology and led the team that launched the Dimtsi Woyane ('Voice of the Revolution') radio station in 1980.[4][5][6] Debretsion was also involved in disrupting the Derg's radio systems.[5]


After the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front's 1991 victory, he joined Addis Ababa University while working full-time as the second man to Kinfe Gebremedhin. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from Addis Ababa University. He received a PhD in information technology from Capella University in 2011. His dissertation was on "Exploring the Perception of Users of Community ICT Centers on the Effectiveness of ICT on Poverty in Ethiopia".[7]

Personal life[edit]

Debretsion is an avid tennis player in his free time.[8]

He married Askale Gebrekidan. He has two young children. They are US citizens.[citation needed]

Political career[edit]

In 2005, Debretsion was appointed director of the Ethiopian Information and Communication Development Agency (EICDA). As its director, Debretsion claimed to improve its public service by launching the Public Service Capacity Building Program (PSCAP).[9] In 2007, Debretsion launched a $1.5 billion infrastructure project with ZTE which expanded the network capacity to 30 million (from 6.5 million in 2007 and 1.35 million in 2001) and constructed 10,000 km of fibre cable.[10][11] By 2012 Ethiopia had constructed 16,000 km of fibre cables and had voice cellular coverage at 64% of the country.[11] In 2012, Debretsion was appointed the federal Minister of Communications and Information Technology. In 2012, Debretsion announced that a $1.6 billion deal had been reached with Huawei, Ericsson and ZTE to significantly expand the capacity of Ethiopia's communication infrastructure.[12] As of September 2016 project has been progressing on schedule.[13] 4G cellular service is now available in Addis Ababa. The ultimate goal of the project is to increase cellular coverage to 100% and to increase capacity to 50 million.[14] Before becoming Tigray's leader, he was sometimes considered as a "low-key technocrat" according to The New York Times.[15]

Debretsion was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister for Finance and Economic Clusters in 2012. In 2015, Debretsion helped to launch a free trade zone with Sudan.[16] In 2015, he inaugurated the construction of the ICT park in Bole Lemi Industrial Park in Addis Ababa.[17] In 2017, he laid the cornerstone for the ICT park and stated that he wants to build more ICT parks in the regional states.[18]

Debretsion was the Board Chair of Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation.[19] In his role in the state owned electricity company, he oversaw the construction of billions of dollars of hydropower dams and electrical infrastructure, as well as seeing service as the Board Chairman of the National Council for the Coordination of Public Participation for the Construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.[20]

In November 2017, Debretsion was elected chairman of the TPLF.[21] His rise within the party was largely facilitated by the fact that he was viewed as a younger figure when compared to the high-ranking figures that had led the TPLF for decades prior, as well as the perception that he was a political moderate who was less committed to Tigrayan nationalism than his predecessors.[15] In January 2018, he was also elected Deputy President of Tigray Region. As Debretsion was not a member of the Tigray Regional parliament, he could not become president. Nonetheless, as the post of the President became vacant, he became the President of Tigray Region in an acting capacity.[22][better source needed]

Tigray War[edit]

On 4 November 2020, the Tigray War started with the TPLF special forces' 4 November attacks against the Northern Command. Debretsion described the attacks as a pre-emptive defensive action. On 12 November, the Federal Police Commission issued an arrest warrant against him and 64 top officials of the TPLF for severe human rights violations, ethnic cleansing, and terrorism.[23][24]

The Ethiopian government announced a military victory against TPLF on 28 November 2020.[25] Debretsion was rumoured to have taken refuge in South Sudan until his message to all TEGARUs came out in March claiming that he is, in fact, near the town of Mekelle (Tigray's capital) stating the TDF forces are still fighting intensively and the outcome will only be victory of the people of Tigray.[26] As of early December 2020, TPLF members and their leader Debretsion resisted the Ethiopian and Eritrean invasion by remaining in the mountains.[27]

In June 2021, after the TDF controlled Mekelle, Debretsion returned to the capital of Tigray, Mekelle and remains among the main political influencers of this conflict.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Debretsion clinches top TPLF position". The Reporter. 29 November 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  2. ^ Hairsine, Kate (27 November 2020). "Ethiopia: Who is Tigray's leader Debretsion Gebremichael?". DW. Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 5 April 2021. "We will never back down for anyone who is intending to suppress our hard-won right to self-determination and self-rule," Debretsion Gebremichael said ahead of the elections. Going ahead with the regional elections ratcheted up the simmering tensions between the TPLF and Abiy's government — tensions that have now sparked into an all-out battle. Now, the engineer and former minister Debretsion finds himself leading a war. And his name is the first of 64 listed on an arrest warrant seeking TFPL officials on terrorism and treason charges.
  3. ^ "የትግረይ ምርጫ፡ በትግራይ ክልላዊ ምርጫ ህወሓት ማሸነፉ ተገለፀ". BBC News (in Amharic). 2020. Archived from the original on 2020-11-22. Retrieved 2020-11-23.
  4. ^ a b "Ethiopia's Tigray crisis: Debretsion Gebremichael, the man at the heart of the conflict". BBC News. 2020-11-22. Retrieved 2022-03-20.
  5. ^ a b c Hairsine, Kate (20 November 2020). "Ethiopia: Who is Tigray's leader Debretsion Gebremichael?". DW.COM. Retrieved 2022-03-20.
  6. ^ "Factbox: Debretsion Gebremichael, head of Ethiopia's Tigrayan forces". Reuters. 2020-11-30. Retrieved 2022-03-20.
  7. ^ "Exploring the Perception of Users of Community ICT Centers on the Effectiveness of ICT on Poverty in Ethiopia". Archived from the original on 24 November 2020. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  8. ^ Tigabu, Tibebeselassie (18 December 2010). "Acquaintance with Minister Debretsion Gebremichael". Archived from the original on 31 March 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  9. ^ "The Ethiopian Information and Communication Technology Development Agency (EICTDA)". ZUNIA Knowledge Exchange. Development Gateway. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  10. ^ "Dramatic Network Modernization on the Roof of Africa". ZTE. 21 October 2010. Archived from the original on 16 December 2017. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  11. ^ a b Adam, Lishan (2012). "What is Happening in ICT in Ethiopia: A supply and demand analysis of the ICT sector" (PDF). Research ICT Africa.
  12. ^ Davison, William (12 October 2012). "ZTE, Huawei to Get Ethiopian Telecommunications Contracts". Bloomberg Technology. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  13. ^ Fikade, Birhanu (10 September 2016). "Huawei to Hand Over Telecom Expansion Project". The Reporter. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  14. ^ Maasho, Aaron (28 November 2013). "China's Huawei to roll out 4G service in Ethiopian capital". Reuters. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  15. ^ a b Walsh, Declan (3 July 2021). "'I Didn't Expect to Make It Back Alive': An Interview With Tigray's Leader". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 November 2021.
  16. ^ Tekle, Tesfa-Alem (25 November 2015). "Ethiopia, Sudan approve to launch free trade zone". Sudan Tribune. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  17. ^ "ICT Village Gets Inaugurated". Addis Fortune. 15 June 2015. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  18. ^ Bekele, Kaleyesus (4 March 2017). "Local IT firm builds ICT Center with 480 million birr". The Reporter. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  19. ^ "Cyber crime: current and future threats". Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  20. ^ "Ethiopia: GERD to Start Generating Power". Energy Central. 24 October 2017.
  21. ^ "Change of guard". Horn Affairs English. 30 November 2017.
  22. ^ "Dr Debretsion Geberemichael elected as Deputy Head (President) of Tigrai". Tigrai Online. 2018-01-10. Retrieved 2018-04-04.
  23. ^ "Ethiopia Issues Arrest Warrant on 64 Top Officials in Tigray – Ethiopian Monitor". 12 November 2020. Retrieved 2020-11-13.
  24. ^ "Arrest warrant issued for TPLF Junta members". Welcome to Fana Broadcasting Corporate S.C. Retrieved 2020-11-13.
  25. ^ "Ethiopia: How tensions with Tigray turned into conflict". Deccan Herald. 2020-11-29. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  26. ^ "Ethiopia expels South Sudan diplomats". Sudan Post. 29 November 2020. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  27. ^ "In Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed's forces have won the battle but not the war". The Economist. December 2020. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  28. ^ Walsh, Declan (2021-07-03). "'I Didn't Expect to Make It Back Alive': An Interview With Tigray's Leader". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-11-22.