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The Ethiopian central government, headed by Nobel Peace Prize-awarded Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed seems to have poked the wasp’s nest in Tigray too much.
On November 3rd, the country is in a state of emergency, with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and their allies marching towards the capital – Addis Ababa.
The alleged reason behind the state of emergency is that it aims to “protect civilians from atrocities being committed by the terrorist TPLF group in several parts of the country.”
The true reason is that the government is struggling to fight against the TPLF and their principal ally, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). Both groups are designated as terrorist by the central government.
Over the October 31st weekend, Tigrayan forces said they had pushed further south and taken Kombolcha and Dessie, two towns on the A2 highway leading into Addis Ababa. Kombolcha is also on the transport corridor connecting Addis Ababa to Djibouti and the outside world.
Recent reports claim that the advance units of the TPLF and OLA have now joined forces on the battlefield just south of Kombolcha. Although the two groups announced a formal military alliance several months ago, this is the first account of developments in the clashes between the OLA and Federal government forces until now.
The Ethiopian government has denied the claims that Tigrayan forces had taken Dessie. However, Ahmed’s government issued a statement accusing Tigrayan forces of killing 100 youths in Kombolcha, about 380 km north of Addis Ababa.
TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said that no blood had to be spilled in Kombolcha, as no form of resistance was mounted in the city. The government kept silent, all but confirming the Tigrayans’ claims.
The state of emergency appears to be an attempt to create an even bigger sense of urgency among citizens, and to form an image of the Tigrayan’s as savage terrorists, leaving desolation in their wake.
However, the real reason is that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s forces have proven largely incapable of fighting against the Tigrayan forces. On October 31st, Ahmed called on all citizens to mobilize. The Amhara regional government has issued a similar call, urging all citizens to join the fight.
The Tigrayan forces have been fighting the government for the past year in a widening war that first pitted federal troops against the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly 30 years before Abiy was appointed in 2018.
In the last several weeks, the central government began using the country’s air force to strike Tigray’s capital – Mekelle, and other supposed TPLF positions. The only “success” that these air raids achieved is to prompt Ahmed’s adversaries to begin their offensive and start marching on the capital, in order to bring these hostilities to an end.
The central government was the one that initiated a unilateral ceasefire back in June, and then months later began violating it, before it ultimately abandoned it.
It is ironic that the Prime Minister, awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, has brought the country to the brink of a catastrophic civil war which, if not halted, could end up tearing the country apart completely.
The rhetoric of both sides has continued to degenerate, with Federal government officials referring to the TPLF as a terrorist group and, more ominous, a cancer and a weed to be eradicated from Ethiopian society. Recent statements from the TPLF spokesmen describe the Federal government, Amhara regional government and Eritrean government as an ‘axis of evil’.
The prospects for a negotiated solution to the crisis are further away than ever. Even as it continues to deny its losses on the battlefield, the Federal government is making frantic preparations for a last ditch defence of the seat of government in Addis Ababa.