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Gebru Asrat is a former president of Tigray Region (1991–2001) and one of the top leaders and executive central committee member as well as politburo member of the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF), and the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front.
Gebru was born in Mekelle, a city in Enderta county, part of Tigray province of Ethiopia and attended Atse Yohannes High School and Haile Selassie University at the height of the Ethiopian student movement of the early 1970s. He holds an undergraduate as well as a graduate degree in Economics. After the TPLF defeated the Derg in the Ethiopian Civil War, Gebru became governor of Tigray.
During Gebru's tenure as Governor of Tigray, a number of institutions of higher education, industries, hospitals and infrastructures were established.
In 1993, Mekelle Business College and Mekelle University College were opened. In May 2000 they were merged into Mekelle University. A number of private colleges and technology institutions were also established, including Mekelle Institute of Technology in early 2000s, specializing exclusively in science and technology.
Ayder Referral Hospital
Ayder Referral Hospital is one of the most advanced medical facility in the northern part of the country and the second largest hospital in the nation. With the total capacity of about 500 inpatient beds in four major departments and other specialty units along with six other affiliated hospitals in the Tigray region, the Ayder Referral Hospital is also used as a teaching hospital for the College of Health Sciences, Mekelle University. It has more than 45 specialists in various medical specializations and fairly adequate numbers of all the other health professionals constituting the health care team.
The 1990s also saw the establishment of Messobo cement factory, one of the leading cement production factories in the country, and the construction of a new international standard airport, Alula Aba Nega Airport. Industries established during Gebru's tenure also include Mesfin Industrial Engineering, a steel fabrication and manufacturing factory, Adigrate pharmaceutical as well as Alamida textiles which employ thousands of workers throughout Tigray. A number of new roads were also built and old ones replaced.
When Ethiopia refused to demarcate a disputed border (despite the ruling by the international court in Hague), Eritrea started a costly war which led to the death of tens of thousands of people on both sides. By the end of the devastating war, the Ethiopian army recovered the town of Badme and drove back Eritrean forces until they controlled around one-third of Eritrean territory, including Barentu region.
However, Meles Zenawi signed a controversial UN peace treaty that was seen to have favored Eritrea. This decision angered many Ethiopians and caused an internal division inside the Ethiopian ruling party. The faction critical of Meles, led by Defense Minister Siye Abraha, and Gebru Asrat, the then influential governor of Tigray, disagreed with those aligned with Meles over "key issues of ideology", accused their supporters of corruption and Meles of failing to act quickly or decisively enough over the crisis with Eritrea. "Meles was certainly seen as a reluctant warrior," according to a source quoted by IRIN. The party was divided into two groups. One group, which included Gebru, Tewolde Wolde Mariam, Aregash, and Siye Abraha, believed that the leadership was bent on serving foreign "imperialist" interests. The other group which included Meles Zenawi argued that the TPLF was sinking into decadence, involving itself in Bonapartism.
Post-war political career
Gebru left TPLF and EPRDF in the early 2000s after the division and went on to establish Arena Tigray, an alternative political party to TPLF in Tigray. Gebru became its chairman in 2007; Arena Tigray merged with other opposition parties in Ethiopia to form Medrek. Gebru run for the parliamentary seat representing the city of Mekelle in the 2010 parliamentary elections but came short of winning according to The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). Opposition groups rejected the election results, with both the Medrek coalition and the separate AEUP issuing calls for a re-run of the election.
Both opposition groups complained that during the 23 May 2010 election, their observers were prevented from entering the polling stations and some of their supporters were assaulted, a situation which drew criticism from the United States and the European Union.
- "Eritrea broke law in border war", BBC News website, published 21 December 2005
- "Ethiopia: Government moves on dissident group", IRIN, published 27 March 2001 . Retrieved 20 November 2009.
- Issayas Mekuria, "Seeye Abraha Out from Jail", Addis Fortune, 7 July 2007 (Internet Archive mirror, accessed 20 May 2009)
- "Ethiopia Opposition Leaders Call for New Vote", Voice of America website, published 26 May 2010