Tigray, Abiy’s army advances but does not break through. And the WHO chief rejects the accusations.
Ethiopia. The Addis Ababa government announces the conquest of Shire, Adigrat and Axum. The raids with the drones that would have supplied the United Arab Emirates continue. Ghebreyesus denies supporting the TPLF: “I am on one side only, peace”.
An old law of journalism goes something like this: “The first to break the news is right, the others must try to deny it”. This time the denial is up to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, powerful head of the World Health Organization, accused by the Ethiopian government of supporting the army of the Tigray Liberation Front (Tplf) in the conflict from a diplomatic and military point of view (arms supplies) ongoing in the region. General Berhanu Jula, chief of staff of the Ethiopian army, however, did not provide any evidence.
In a statement Ghebreyesus declares that he “stands on one side, peace” and that he is “sad for what is happening in my home, Ethiopia”. On this occasion, he asks to “guarantee the safety of civilians and access to humanitarian assistance”. The first African head of the WHO, appointed in 2017, a well-known face since the Covid pandemic began, was for many years Minister of Health in Ethiopia as a member of the Tplf.
On the military level, the federal government would have conquered Shire, Adigrat and Axum, but the march towards the capital of Tigray (Makallè) would be hampered by the destruction of the bridges carried out by the Tigrinya army. Bombings also continued, especially by drones that Ethiopia would have received from the United Arab Emirates.
On an international level, Joe Biden’s foreign policy adviser Antony Blinken has declared his deep concern about the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia and has called for an end to the fighting even though it may be out of time.
The African Union mediation attempt was also rejected by the Addis Ababa government because Tigray is not at stake, a small region where only 6% of the Ethiopian population lives, without particular natural resources, the fulcrum is according to the prof. Kassahun Melesse of Oregon University to control Ethiopia’s economy, its natural resources and the billions of dollars the country receives from international donors each year (on average, about $ 3.5 billion a year in aid alone). The TPLF controlled this wealth for nearly three decades until Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister.
Then there is the issue of land ownership which, according to the Ethiopian Constitution, is public, the government can give it in concession (small farmers can access it for free) and this has given over the years a decisive power to public officials, who have rented to large companies millions of hectares (estimates point to 4 million, roughly the area of Switzerland) accumulating billions of dollars in the process. Last but not least, before Abiy Ahmed came to power, all intelligence officers and military leaders came from the Tplf (or were members of the party’s military wing during the armed struggle against Mengitsu).
According to Kassahun, the TPLF also intervened directly in the selection of the leaders of the major religions, which it considered instruments of social control (eg during the Tplf government, both patriarchs of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church came from Tigray).
The Abiy government has systematically dismantled the mechanism of power of the Tplf as well as with the ouster of its officials from key roles also with important privatizations (eg. Ethio Telecom, Ethiopian Sugar Corporation) and with the introduction of new banknotes that have had as a result, the freezing of many bank accounts and making cash over 35 thousand euros waste paper.
The war is a consequence of the difficulties of democratic transition of power in Ethiopia (and in Africa in general), changes are made to the sound of weapons, which is why there is no mediation that takes place.
Meanwhile, the march towards Mekalle by the Ethiopian army continues, but an outcome is already clear: “War is an evil thing, it makes brothers fight brothers and fathers fight their children and we have already seen too many in Ethiopia” he declared Aba Gebremichael, an Orthodox Christian monk.
Ethiopia on the verge of civil war: the Nobel Peace Prize orders the air raids.
Prime Minister Abiy and the military offensive to overthrow the leaders of Tigray. The analysis of the historian Uoldelul Chelati Dirar: “Risks of implosion for the Ethiopian state and for the entire region”.
Il Corriere della Sera.
While the world looks the other way, Ethiopia is with one foot in the civil war. We asked the historian Uoldelul Chelati Dirar, expert on the Horn of Africa and professor of African History and Institutions at the University of Macerata, to frame the crisis that a country of over 100 million inhabitants is experiencing, led by a premier, Abiy Ahmed, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. A young politician who in 2018 presented himself to the world with these words: “Peace is our common home, and the entrance door is only one”. Would he say that today too, while fighting in the northern region of Tigray? The victims number by the dozen. Abiy removed the Foreign Minister, the Chief of the Armed Forces and the Chief of Intelligence by announcing it via Twitter, without giving any explanation. The UN alarm: 9 million people risk being trapped in the fighting or being forced to leave their homes.
What is happening in Ethiopia?
Winds of civil war seem threatening to loom, throwing the country into a situation of dangerous tension with very serious risks for the entire region. The situation already tense due to the non-holding of the general elections scheduled for last August and the decision of the federal state of Tigray to proceed unilaterally with its own elections, has rapidly deteriorated in recent days”.
What precipitated the crisis?
The decision of the Federal Parliament to cut off all bridges with the Federal State Administration of Tigray and the reaction of the Tigray Government to refuse the presence of the military commander of the Northern Command sent by the Central Government and to close its airspace to any aircraft. Finally, government sources speak of an attack by Tigrinya forces on military bases of the federal army, but there is currently no official evidence.
What’s the news from Tigray?
“Since last Tuesday evening, the entire Tigray region has been isolated and unreachable by telephone, internet access services blocked and the supply of electricity suspended. The federal government also declared a six-month state of emergency across the region and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the commencement of military operations to quell the Tigray rebellion. Fights are underway and it seems that the Ethiopian air force has bombed some military posts in Tigray”.
Who are the contenders in this conflict?
In this growing tension the contenders are on the one hand Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, head of the Ethiopian Federal Government and leader of the new Prosperity Party, and on the other hand the administration of the federal state of Tigray led by the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), the organization that was the main architect of the fall, in 1991, of the military dictatorship led by Colonel Menghistu Haile Mariam and which, until 2018, continuously controlled the federal government”.
The reasons for this division?
“After the appointment of Abyi Ahmed as prime minister, there has been a continuous escalation of tensions between him and the TPLF. At the base there is the irreconcilable difference on what the project for the future of Ethiopia should be. On the one hand, there is the prospect of ethno-linguistic federalism strongly desired by the TPLF and ratified by the 1994 Constitution; on the other hand, the perspective of the so-called medemer (synergy in Amharic language) theorized by Abiy Ahmed which, in fact, proposes an overcoming of the federal model and promises a return to more centralized constitutional models. The strategy of the medemer has resulted in a whirlwind of changes in the social and political life of the country”.
“Some of these changes have generated great hope among the Ethiopian population and international observers. Suffice it to recall the release of thousands of political prisoners, the authorization of opponents who took refuge abroad to return home, the denunciation of the use of torture by the security services and the emphasis on the need to give political and economic visibility to women”.
And then there was the detente with the great enemy next door, Eritrea … ?
“The most significant event was undoubtedly the surprise announcement – in 2018 – of the start of a process of normalization of relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which had in fact been suspended for twenty years. Paradoxically, it was the very start of the peace process with Eritrea that triggered a rapid deterioration in relations between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the TPLF”.
“On the one hand, the start of peace, as approved, was perceived by the leadership of the TPLF as a coup as it had not seen an active involvement of Tigray, in fact the federal state with most of the border shared with Eritrea and the most directly involved in the tragic war of 1998-2000. The situation was worsened by the rapid start of close relations between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Issayas Afewerki, with numerous exchanges of visits between the two heads of state”.
How did the Tigray leaders react?
“The consolidation of relations between the two heads of state was seen by the leadership of the TPLF as the signal of a strategy aimed at marginalizing them politically after that for more than twenty years the TPLF was the main political actor on the Ethiopian scenario and the architect of the great economic and social transformation. The statements by Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki have certainly not helped to allay these concerns. In the speech with which he declared that he accepted the Ethiopian government’s peace proposal, Isaias had spoken of a “game over” for the Tigrinya leadership, while in an interview he explicitly declared that he could not remain a passive spectator in the face of the evolution of the Ethiopian political situation. It would therefore seem that the State of Eritrea is becoming more and more like a cumbersome stone guest in the dangerous evolution of the Ethiopian crisis”.
What are the risks for Ethiopia?
“Undoubtedly, the crisis is above all an Ethiopian question, linked to the questioning of federal structures and the redefinition of the balance of power between the various political forces. If not stopped in time, the current crisis could trigger further political fragmentation along ethnic lines with unpredictable but certainly disturbing consequences, as also demonstrated by the recent episode that saw the killing of dozens of civilians in the federal state of Oromia. of Amhara origin”.
And the dangers for the region?
“This is a complex crisis, which unfolds on several levels and which, if not stopped, could destabilize the entire region of the Horn of Africa, eliminating the tiring processes of economic growth and social transformation initiated in the last thirty years. Ethiopia has long been pursuing a regional leadership strategy that has led it to play a central role in numerous crisis scenarios from Somalia to Sudan. Furthermore, the new unprecedented alliance between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Isayas Afewerki is leading to tension and stiffening on the part of various politicians in the region who denounce what for them is a hegemonic project destined to compress and stiffen national political spaces”.
Then there is the crisis of the Nile dam … ?
“Here is another particularly thorny issue that shakes regional equilibrium: the project, which is now nearing completion, of the so-called Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD). Initiated by former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the project of this great dam on the Nile is intended to solve the problem of Ethiopian growing energy needs but is strongly opposed by Egypt and is viewed with concern by Sudan”.
Trump recently said that Egypt could bomb the dam … ?
“Egypt has repeatedly expressed its hostility to the project which it considers a threat to its survival and its agricultural production, and has explicitly threatened the possibility of resorting to the use of force to arrest it. In this, Egypt would seem to enjoy the support of the outgoing American administration, which further complicates an already particularly intricate scenario”.
What needs to be done to stop the crisis in Tigray?
“The intervention of the international community is urgently needed to try to encourage a negotiated solution that removes the specter of a devastating return to war in a region that has already been tormented for a long time. The voices of reason must triumph over the unreasonable use of arms”.
The world is distracted by the pandemic and the outcome of the elections in the United States. What are your predictions?
«Prime Minister Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize but is now using the force of arms with a certain ruthlessness instead of seeking mediation, perhaps resorting to regional bodies. The impression is that his project was to carry out a surgical blitz to remove the current leadership of the TPLF and replace it with administrators in tune with his political line. Once the blitz has failed, the prospect is of a military tug-of-war aimed at strengthening mutual positions. For both contenders, political survival is at stake. However, it is clear that no one will be able to win from a protracted fighting. The solution can only go through a negotiating table. In the contrary case, the most immediate risk is the implosion of the Ethiopian state, already destabilized by dramatic internal lacerations, with a catastrophic cascade effect on the entire region”.
Saturday, 21 November 2020 – 11:48:00
Ethiopia, the government rejects mediations and continues the offensive in Tigray.
The Ethiopian government has announced the conquest of the second city of Tigray.
The Addis Ababa government has rejected the African Union (AU) mediation proposal in the ongoing conflict since 4 November in the Tigray region, in the north of the country, with the Popular Liberation Front (Tplf). And this despite Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that he will meet “one by one” with the three African Union’s (AU) envoys, namely former presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa.
“The news that these envoys will mediate between the federal government and the criminal elements of the front are false. The position of the federal government on this affair has not changed”, reads a note from the Ethiopian government on Facebook, as reported “Addis Standard”. The Ethiopian government has announced the conquest of the second city of Tigray: the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has announced the capture of Adigrat by the army, which is now heading towards the capital of the ‘rebel’ region, Makallé.
Ethiopian ambassador Zenebu: “The capital of Tigray is under siege”.
Appeal to Italy and to the international community: “They must support the Ethiopian government”.
Translated from: Dire.
ROME – The capital Macallè is already surrounded and “in a few days” the conflict with the Tigray rebels will be concluded: so today the Ambassador of Ethiopia to Italy, Zenebu Tadesse Woldetsadik, convinced that the Addis army Ababa is trying to protect civilians “as much as possible”.
According to the diplomat, “the majority of the resorts” that were under the control of the Liberation Front of the people Tigrinya (TPLF) were taken by federal forces. “The advanced already lasted two weeks – says Zenebu – just because there has been carefully in order to minimize the number of civilian casualties”.
During the interview, the ambassador made an appeal to Italy and the international community. “They must support the Ethiopian government which is committed to restoring respect for law and order after an army base has been attacked within the national territory, an intolerable fact”.
Zenebu says responsibility for the episode was claimed by “unconscious elements” of the TPLF, who then went so far as to bomb Eritrea. “We thank Asmara who has remained calm so far”, adds the ambassador in this regard. “Ethiopia remains committed to protect civilians and to restore order by operating in a selective and respectful of the Tigray people”.
Today the United Nations called for a truce to be agreed to allow the creation of humanitarian corridors to and from Tigray. Because of the fighting, according to the UN, from 4 November at least 30,000 people have fled past Ethiopia’s border with Sudan.
“THANK YOU DIASPORA FOR DAM ON THE NILE!”.
Donations and funds for over 50 million dollars but also skills and support with knowledge sharing and training: this, according to Zenebu Ambassador Tadesse Woldetsadik, is the contribution of the Ethiopian diaspora around the world to the construction of the “great dam” on the Nile.
“It was crucial support, not only from a strictly economic point of view”, the diplomat underlines, in an interview with the Dire agency. “The Ethiopians of the diaspora in Europe or America have on average a good level of education and can also contribute in terms of research”. According to Zenebu, “skills have also been used for technical work, not least for the installation of turbines”.
The Great Dam of the Ethiopian Renaissance (Gerd), this is the name of the plant, is located in a region close to the border with Sudan. 145 meters high and two kilometers long, once completed it will be the largest in Africa, capable of producing 15,000 gigawatt hours of electricity at full capacity.
The works, which began in 2011 and coordinated by the Italian company Salini, cost approximately four billion and 800 million dollars. A role of the diaspora was written a few days ago for protests organized by citizens of Ethiopian origin in the United States. At the origin of the mobilization, the words of US President Donald Trump regarding Egypt’s desire to “blow up” the dam. According to the Ethiopian Diaspora Action Council (Ceda), “such a threat to a work entirely financed by the poor of Ethiopia and an attempt to prevent a sovereign country like Ethiopia from using its own resources water systems represent a return to the colonial era”.
Addis Ababa launches decisive advance on Tigray.
Translated from: Dire.
ROME – The military offensive of the Ethiopian army in the northern region of Tigray is entering a “last and crucial phase”.
This was said by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who yesterday announced to the press that an ultimatum of three days for a surrender imposed on the Tigrin People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that controls the region, has “expired”.
Obtaining information from the area where the fighting is taking place remains very difficult, due to the interruption of the lines of communication. According to rumors relaunched by concordant sources, including the Al Jazeera broadcaster, the goal of the final advance of the Ethiopian military is Macallè, the capital of Tigray. The outskirts of the city have already been attacked yesterday with an air raid defined as “surgical” by the Addis Ababa task force leading the operations. According to military officials, the armed forces have also taken possession of the cities of Raya, Chercher, Gugufto and Mehoni in the south-east of the region.
The Tplf reported that the Ethiopian army hit civilian targets, killing several people. The movement also claimed that Addis Ababa’s military would have isolated Macalle by destroying four bridges that connect it with the rest of the country. Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis, which the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), has already described as “on a large scale”, worsens. According to the UN body, at least 27,000 people have already fled to neighboring Sudan.
The Clashes. Ethiopia at war: will it be the Yugoslavia of Africa? What’s happening in Tigray.
Ethiopia and the conflict in Tigray. Prime Minister Abiy’s attack one year after the Nobel. Refugees and victims. The Oslo warning.
Il Corriere della Sera.
“We took the baby and they escaped under the bombs. There were so many dead. We arrived covered in dust, with nothing”. Taharsta Mahya tells of the escape from the “invisible war” of Tigray, 6 million inhabitants, a segment of Ethiopia which in the space of two weeks went from being a major exporter of sesame to exporter of refugees. Like Mahya, over 32,000 people have fled to Sudan. Half of the refugees are under the age of 18. “Many adults are bankers, doctors, professionals, people who were well”, the local head of Unicef told Reuters. They arrive every day, in the makeshift camp of Oum Rakoba. The only property, the clothes they wear. “I live under this tree, I sleep on the ground”, says Yohannes Gor, 28, who fled Humera. “I’ve lost my family”. The UN expects a flow of 200,000 refugees to an area of Sudan where everything is lacking.
Another war in Africa. Bombs and militiamen, bridges cut to stop the enemy advance, air raids, the first news of ethnic massacres, with machete, reported by Amnesty International. And the civilians caught in the middle. Not in the “usual” theaters of forgotten conflicts. Not in Congo, but in the land that boasts a prime minister of peace, in the country of double-digit economic growth, the beacon of the Horn of Africa, the faithful ally of the West, with 115 million inhabitants and ten provinces drawn on a rift of ethnic rivalries that widen rather than close. Knots to roost, internal clashes and away from the international spotlight.
Peace with Eritrea.
Since 2018, the Addis Ababa government has been led by Abiy Ahmed, the former cyber war officer who dared to make peace with the Eritrean of the great enemy Isaias Afewerki. Just one year after the Nobel Prize, on 4 November, in the shadow of the US elections, Abiy launched an offensive aimed at ousting the leadership of the rebel province (not “the brothers of the Tigrinya people”) its bitter rivals. According to various sources, including humanitarian agencies, the victims (even among the “brother people”) are hundreds. Every day the count goes hand in hand with the announcement of new conquests (denied by the “rebels”, who would count on 250,000 effective): “We have taken Adua and Axum. Now Adigrat. We are 120 km from Makallè”.
The Italian wars.
Names that bounce familiar from the toponymy of Italian squares, the streets of chronicle and history. Remember the Axum obelisk, the one that was transported to Rome and that Vittorio Sgarbi did not want to send back to Ethiopia? And Adua, the Abyssinian War, the defeat of 1896 that fascist Italy “avenged” with the Empire. The war in Ethiopia that Maaza Mengiste also tells the world in her «The Shadow King», finalist for the Booker Prize. Mengiste chooses the point of view of female soldiers who, like her great-grandmother, challenged the Italians. There are many photos in the book: “Mussolini understood that a war can also be won with images”, says the writer in interviews. Conversely, on the opposite front, in this century, Prime Minister Abiy thinks he can win against the veterans of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) by obscuring images, cutting out the Internet, light and telephone network, reducing a conflict that is already external (the refugees in Sudan) and which according to observers risks reverberating in the region, from Somalia up to Egypt.
Like Aung San Suu Kyi?
“Internal matter”. He doesn’t want to hear about a ceasefire, Nobel Abiy. Yesterday the African Union, snubbed by the premier, appointed three envoys to try to stop the weapons (among them another “peace crown”, the Liberian Ellen Johnson Sirleaf). While the Nobel Committee from Norway showed up, which is rare, with an ad hoc message in which it states “to monitor the crisis in Ethiopia with concern”. Does Abiy risk losing face like Burmese Aung San Suu Kyi, who has fallen from grace abroad over an “internal issue” such as the persecution of the Rohingya? A suggestive parallel, but a bit misleading. “The Tigray People’s Liberation Front is the brand of the old” masters “of Addis Ababa, the organization – Uoldelul Chelati Dirar told the historical Corrierelo (here the whole interview) – which was the main architect of the fall of the dictatorship of Menghistu Haile Mariam in 1991 and who, until 2018, controlled the federal government ”. Until the advent (bloodless) of Abiy Ahmed, Oromo and Amharic blood in his veins, young, dynamic and charismatic. In the last two years there has been a continuous growing of tensions between the premier and the TPLF. “At the base – says Chelati Dirar – the irreconcilable difference on the future of Ethiopia. On the one hand, the ethno-linguistic federalism desired by the TPLF; from the other the medemer (synergy, in Amharic language) theorized by Abiy Ahmed which promises a return to more centralized constitutional models”.