The Tigrayans live in Northern Ethiopia, in the area congruent with the old kingdom of Axum. They are mainly orthodox Christians, but contain Muslim and Roman Catholic minorities of considerable size; appr. 20%. Their language is called Tigriniya. Tigrayans have always played an important role in Ethiopia, partly based on the fact that their lands are the core of Ethiopia and the womb and guardian
of the orthodox faith. In Tigray stands the Chapel of the Ark of the Covenant, one of the reasons for the region's importance and its attraction on Europeans in the past 1500 years. Many of the Ethiopian emperors were Tigrayan, most recently Yoannes IV (1872-1889).
The TPLF, led by Legesse Zenawi (who changed his name to Meles in honor of the revolutionary radical executed in 1975), became the key political force in post-Mengistu Ethiopia. The TPLF draws most of its support from Tigrayans living in Tigray province. Following the independence of Eritrea, in which half of the total population is Tigrayan, the number of Tigray residents in Ethiopia became halved. There are only a few million Tigrayans in Ethiopia. Although the Tigrayan-dominated EPRDF and TGE attempted to accommodate the interests of non-Tigrayan people, many non-Tigrayans expressed a hostile reaction, fearing Tigrayan hegemony.
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