What we know so far about the Abiy-TPLF war in Tigray region
Most Ethiopians were asleep when at about 2 a.m. local time Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that he had ordered military action against his archrival the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). TPLF is the ruling party in Tigray, one of the 10 federal member states that make up Ethiopia.
The timing was impeccable. The military offensive commenced as much of the world’s attention remained focused on a nail-biting election in the United States. “Our Defense Forces, under the command of the Command Post, have been ordered to carry out their mission to save the country,” he said in a Facebook post. “The last red line has been crossed and the federal government is therefore forced into a military confrontation.”
The statement alleged that Tigray triggered the conflict by attacking federal military installations in Mekelle and Dansha towns and by attempting to rob the military’s Northern Command. Abiy called on Ethiopians “to remain calm, to be vigilant and to standby” the defense forces. A little over an hour later, he appeared on state television, accusing TPLF whom he called traitors of treason and suggesting that the military had sustained death and injuries in the ensuing confrontation. The TPLF said in a statement that the Northern Command had defected to its side and the army would stand with the people of Tigray.
The military campaign itself is hardly a surprise. Large-scale troop movements had been reported in recent days. Tigrayan officials and eyewitnesses said troops were being mobilized along the Tigray-Amhara border. On Sunday, Tigray regional president Debretsion Gebremichael declared that his forces were prepared to win an imminent conflict.
Here is what we know so far:
The Council of Ministers has declared a six-month state of emergency in Tigray to be overseen by the chief of staff of the armed forces. A State of Emergency Task Force set up to implement the martial law could expand or restrict the geographic scope of the decree through a directive.
Redwan Hussein, a State Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ethiopia’s ambassador to Eritrea (2018-2019), has been named the spokesperson for the Task Force.
Authorities had shut down telephone and internet services in the Tigray region, with many on social media saying they could not reach their families. Located in the northeast of the country, along the Eritrean border, Tigray comprises about six percent of Ethiopia’s 110 million people. TPLF fought 17-year guerrilla warfare against the Ethiopian state, toppling Mengistu Hailemariam’s communist regime in 1991.
The Ethiopian army has four regional commands. The Northern Command, based in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray regional states, is by far the most well-equipped unit, controlling much of the country’s state of the art military hardware. Among its contingents are those who have been stationed along the Eritrean border for the past two decades.
Abiy was appointed prime minister in April 2018. His elevation ended TPLF’s dominance over Ethiopian politics that lasted from 1991 to 2018. TPLF returned to Tigray to consolidate the regional government.
TPLF actively opposed Abiy’s candidacy in internal party deliberations and did not vote for him. The feeling of intense dislike and suspicion is mutual. As soon as he assumed office, Abiy took steps to dislodge Tigrayans from key security and government institutions. Authorities also launched a coordinated propaganda campaign against Abiy’s nemesis, blaming the latter for instigating ethnic conflict across the country. At one point Abiy disparaged TPLF as “day-time hyenas,” which became a colloquial term to demonize all Tigrayans. TPLF has similarly questioned Abiy’s mental state and its officials have been trading barbs and insults.
Suffice to say, tensions and brinkmanship between Abiy and TPLF had been building for the better part of Abiy’s short tenure. Relations soured in September when TPLF defied federal authorities and went ahead with regional elections. Abiy said the poll was illegal and void, likening it to “squatter housing.” He then demonetized banknotes and withheld federal subsidies for the Tigray state.
In response, TPLF said it would not recognize or cooperate with the Abiy administration starting on 5 October 2020 and deemed the government in Addis Ababa illegitimate. Crucially, TPLF prevented personnel changes at the Northern Command, refusing to allow the General appointed by Abiy to lead that division to take up his post.
TPLF has relatively well-trained and better-armed police, special forces, and militias. If true, the defection of the Northern Command does not bode well for the unity of the national army.
Tigrayans are battle-tested and TPLF spent the last two years beating the war-drum and it has created a siege mentality whereby civilians, especially the youth, maybe mobilized in a protracted conflict.
The Abiy-TPLF war could engulf the Horn region. European Union, African Union, and the United Nations have all appealed for calm and de-escalation in recent days. “All parties, as well as Ethiopia’s neighbors, must act to reduce tension, eliminate inflammatory language and abstain from provocative military deployments,” EU High Representative Josep Borrell said in a statement on Monday. “Failure to do so risks destabilizing the country as well as the wider region.” Neither side has heeded calls to de-escalate inflammatory rhetoric and return to dialogue.
TPLF and Eritrea have been engaged in a war of words. In a statement on 31 October, the Eritrean embassy in Addis Ababa warned the TPLF that it was “game over” for them. This led many to conclude that the conflict in the Tigray state is likely to involve Eritrea with Asmara intervening militarily in support of Abiy. In a preemptive gesture, the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s office suggested that TPLF has been manufacturing Eritrean military uniforms to create the impression of foreign aggression.
Analysts say there are three centers involved in the war: Addis Ababa, Mekelle, and Asmara. And that the Eritrean government is not a neutral observer but rather a party to this conflict, although the degree of its involvement is yet to be known.
Eritrea’s involvement in support of the federal government is likely to divide opinion among Abiy’s rapidly diminishing constituency. The personal relationship between Abiy and Eritrean President Isias Afeworki has already ruffled the feathers of reactionary Ethiopian nationalists who still bemoan Eritrea’s independence. The much-celebrated rapprochement with Eritrea, for which Abiy received the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, is also at stake. Without the cooperation of the Tigray government, which shares a large border with Eritrea and controls the disputed territories between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the rapprochement with Eritrea cannot work.
Ultimately, the Abiy-TPLF war is unlikely to be a quick and “surgical operation” similar to Abiy’s 2018 intervention in the Somali region. The Amhara branch of the Prosperity Party has demanded the total annihilation of the TPLF. PM Abiy in his televised statement also appeared to hint at this as the ultimate goal. Later in the day, Redwan Hussein tried to clarify that the conflict was with a “small clique” inside TPLF.
Regardless, this is likely to be a protracted conflict with possible pocketed violence and general insecurity elsewhere in the country. The situation is particularly tense in Oromia where authorities accuse TPLF of fomenting targeted ethnic attacks. Federal and Oromia officials were quick to point fingers at TPLF earlier this week when militants allegedly killed 34 civilians in West Wallaga.
Ethiopia analyst Rene Lefort, who maintains relations with some TPLF hardliners, offers an optimistic view that the conflict “will not lead to a full-fledged war” and negotiation or mediation could commence soon, under the guise of ‘saving peace,’ ‘Ethiopian unity,’ ‘international pressures,’ etc.
Just what is at stake in this conflict?
Kjetil Tronvoll, a professor of Peace and conflict studies at the Bjorknes University College in Norway and who in September went to Tigray to observer of the regional election explains via The Africa Report:
“For TPLF, and the majority of the Tigrayan people, this is an existential issue; something they have fought and sacrificed for during 17 years of struggle. The new policies of [the ruling Prosperity Party] seem to challenge this understanding of what Ethiopia ‘should be’”.
“Hence, this is not a conflict over technicalities but on the conceptualization to Ethiopia as such and which consequently makes it very hard, if not impossible to solve on the negotiation table.”
Waraanni Bilisummaa Oromoo Wabii Nagaati Malee Farra Nagaa Ta’uu Hin Dandahu
(Ibsa Ajaja Ol’aanaa ABO-WBO)
Waraanni Bilisummaa Oromoo diraamaa maqaa jijjiiramaan media fi jaarmayoota siyaasaa keessaan dalagamaa ture ija qaroon ilaalaa ture. Diraamaan wal fakkaataa baroota dheeraaf ABO-WBO irratti dalagamaa har’a geenye. Ammas, hogganooti PP jalqaba Sadaasa 2020 irratti itti fufiinsi diraamaa kanaan, WBOn naannoo Gullisootti tarkaanfii saba Amaaraa irratti fudhate jedhanii, olola afarsuun kasaaraa siyaasaa fi waraanaa keessa seenan haguuguuf wixxifataa jiraachuun hubatamaa dha.
Hogganooti Bilxiginnaa dibbee lolaa tumaa lolatti seenan. Akka dhaadatanitti lolatti seeneen keessaa bahu hin dandeenye. Kasaaraa waraanaa keessa seenan haguuguuf uummata fixuun, WBO maqaa balleessuuf yaalaa jiru. Haala kanaan diraamaan PPdhaan dalagame keessaa tokko waraanni PP yeroo naannoo Gullisoo irraa ka’u, humna addaa Oromiyaa jedhamu Gullisootti bobbaafame uummata fixuun ’oneg shaneetu’ uummata fixe jechuun saba walitti buusuun bu’aa siyaasaa keessaa baafachuuf dalagame dha.
Injifannoo waraanaa WBOn loltuun Bilxiginnaa irratti argate haguuguuf walitti bu’iinsa sabummaa fi amantaa fakkeessanii WBO maqaa xureessuun toftaa dulloomaa koloneeffattooti falmattoota haqaa ittiin yakkan akka ta’e beekamaa dha. OPDOn diraamaa wal fakkaataa Baddannoo fi ArbaaGugguu keessatti akka dalagdee turte ni yaadatama. Hoggantooti Bilxiginnaa ammaas uummata hunda biratti jibbamanii, WBOs waraanaan injifachuu dadhabanii, daboo biyya ollaa fi biyya alaa kadhachuun Oromiyaa keessatti lolaan itti milkaahuu hanqachuun, tarkaanfii abdii kutannaa uummata irratti fudhachuun, WBO maqaa balleessuun, sabaa Amaaraa miira keessa galchuun lola Oromoo irratti gaggeeffamu akka isaan gargaaru karoorfatanii akka ta’e ifa galaa dha.
Haa ta’uuti WBOn waraana akeeka ifaa qabu, naamusa sibiila irra jabaa ta’een masakamuu fi tarkaanfiin isaas loltuu weerartuu gita bittuu impayera Itiyophiyaa irratti kan qiyyaafate akka ta’e firris diinnis ni beeka. Kanaaf ammoo ragaan naannoolee WBOn tohatee jiru keessatti tarkaanfiin saba irratti qiyyaafate takkaa mudatee kan hin beekne ta’uu ajajaan ol’aanaa ABO-WBOn hubachiisa. WBOn tarkaanfii sabummaa fi amantii irratti aggaammate tokkollee fudhatee hin beeku, fudhachaas hin jiru, of duras kan hin fudhanne ta’uu ajajaan ol’aanaa ABO-WBO ibsa.
WBOn akeeka ifaa kan sagantaa siyaasaa ABO irra jiru fiixa baasuun akka uummatni Oromoo mootummaa walaba mataa isaa ijaarratee nagaa waaraa akka argatu qabsaahuu dha malee haqa dhablummaa babal’isuun fi dibbee lolaa kan sabummaa fi amantaa irratti qiyyaafate tumuun akka furmaata waaraa hin fidne qixeessee hubata. Kanaaf:
1. Ajajaan ol’aanaa ABO-WBO ajjeechaa sanyii, sabummaa fi amantii irratti qiyyaafatee raawwatamu kamuu ni balaaleffataa.
2. Dhimma ajjeechaa jumlaa Oromiyaa keessatti raawwatamaa jiru hunda irratti qaamni walabaan qoratatee addunyaaf dhiheessu akka shaffisaan hojiitti seenu gaafata.
3. Qaamni sabummaa, eenyummaa, ilaalcha siyaasaa fi amantaa irratti hundaa’anii hidhaa fi ajjeechaa sabaa fi sablammoota irratti raawwatan marti akka hatattamaan murtii seeraatti dhiyaatanii murtii argatan akeekkachiisa.
4. Medialeen olola maqa-balleessii WBO irratti afarsaa jirtan, akkasumas kijiba hogganoota PP facaasuun sabaa fi sablammoota walitti buusuuf dhamatan dhugaa jiru hubattanii gochaa keessan kana irraa akka of qosatan hubachiifna.
5. Ajjeechaa Oromiyaa (Oromoo), Kaaba(Qimanti fi Agaw) fi Kibba(Sidama fi Walayta) irratti yeroo dheeraaf gaggeeffamaa jiru akka xumura argatuf uummatni Oromoo fi uummattooti cunqurfamoo marti harka wal qabattanii partii farra sabaa fi sablammootaa kan ta’e, Bilxiginnaa of irraa kaastanii naannoo keessanitti mootummaa walaba tolfattan waamicha dhiheessina.
6. Impayera Itiyophiyaa seerrii fi sirni haqa argachuu hin diriirre keessatti, diinni dachee Oromiyaa mana sabaa fi sablammootaa taate irratti garmaamee uummata Oromoo fi saboota bicuu irratti roorrisuu fi ajjeesaa jiru uummata irraa ittisuuf tarkaanfii madaalawaa fudhachuun gumaa sabaa kan baasu ta’uu ajajaan ol’aanaa ABO-WBO akeekkachiisa.
7. WBOn wabii haqaa fi nagaa akka ta’e ajajaan o’aanaa ABO-WBO irra deebihee hubachiisa!
Injifannoo Ummata Oromoof!
Ajaja ol’aanaa ABO-WBO
Sadaasa 4, 2020
“Meeshaa harkaa qabdan kan bilisummaa Oromootiif oolu godhaa. Obboloota keessanitti dabalamaa” Dr Iskeel Gabbisaa
“Lola Tigraay waliin eegalame akka salphaatti hin laalinaa. Waraana guddaadha. Jara bara Dargii riphee lolaa tahee moo’ate har’a waraana guutuu harkatti qabatee moo’ama jettanii hin yaadinaa. Waraanni achitti ergamu gaafa akka tahu tahe isinis achitti erganii isin galaafachuun waan yaadamaa jiru. Kanaafuu dhiiga keessan dhiiga bilaashatti lola’u godhuu irra osoo dhiiga hin lolaasin bilisummaa Oromiyaatiif dafaa hojjadhaa.
Meeshaa harkaa qabdan kan bilisummaa Oromootiif oolu godhaa. Obboloota keessanitti dabalamaa. Dhalattoota Tigraay kan saba isaaniitiif dhaabatan irraa waa baradhaa. RIB Oromiyaa keessaa baheera; kan hafes bahaa jira. Yeroo ammaa Oromiyaa keessatti kan hafe isin qofa. Kanaafuu obboloota keessanitti hin dhukaasinaa itti makamaa!