The Tigray People’s Liberation Front cannot be allowed to continue to hold northern Ethiopia hostage
Ever since the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) willingly and deliberately shoved aside overtures to join the new ruling Prosperity Party in Ethiopia, its leadership fortressed itself in Mekelle. From there it spent the better part of 2019 busily plotting attacks, training extremist armed actors, making plans alongside foreign entities to attack Ethiopia’s critical infrastructure. In twisted irony, the group that once ruled Ethiopia and benefited immensely has sought to destroy the very country which gave it so much. The in July 2021, the group’s spokesperson declared their willingness “to go to hell in order to disintegrate the Ethiopian state”.
After all these covert and overt attempts to create instability and havoc, the TPLF crossed the redline and attacked the Northern Command of Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), the Fifth Battalion Barracks in Dansha, and other Northern Command bases stationed in the Tigray region during the early hours of November 4, 2020. The attacks were launched by the region’s Special Forces of Tigray and allied Paramilitaries. The aim was to take over military installations and arms of the Northern Command, and then to overthrow the government of Ethiopia (GoE). Simultaneously, the leadership in Mekelle launched several missile attacks on Eritrea’s capital. This dangerous escalation was a cynical move meant to internationalize the conflict.
However, thanks to the brave men and women of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, these plans did not go as planned. While it is true extensive damage was caused by the TPLF, Ethiopian troops were able to repel the insurrection. During the chaos, frustrated and desperate TPLF armed gangs were quick to take out their wrath on civilian populations deemed to be supporters of the government. In the early days of the conflict, as TPLF made a hasty retreat in from Dansha, the group committed the first of many heinous atrocities in Mai-Cadra, where hundreds of civilians were brutally executed.
These violent acts, many of which amount to crimes against humanity forced the Federal Government to respond militarily. Ever since the breakout of the conflict, the ENDF has been on mission to preserve law in parts of the country where the insurrection has taken place. In late 2020, TPLF’s grand miscalculation resulted in Ethiopia forces controlling Mekelle, the capital city of the Tigray region, bringing to justice some top-ranking members of the insurgency. Other senior leaders of TPLF were also killed in the fighting, while some fled to their hideout in mountains of Tambien.
After a short stint, the GoE decided to withdraw its forces from Tigray region declaring a unilateral ceasefire with the intention of creating a conducive environment for agricultural and humanitarian activities and to halt the wanton destruction or life and property. Nevertheless, TPLF continued its incursions and invaded the adjacent Amhara and Afar regions in June 2021, creating unspeakable human suffering and devastation. Thousands of lives were lost, millions have been displaced, and billions of dollars’ worth property have been laid waste. The intervention of various actors at different levels further complicated the conflict and attracted regional and international attentions that could possibly create ramification and prolonging the conflict.
Given the circumstances any victory by the TPLF only emboldens its tyrant and nihilist leaders to exacerbate the suffering in northern Ethiopia. From its inception, TPLF embodies terrorism while claiming to fight it; it also commits genocide while claiming to prevent it. It has used civilians as human shields in combat and will not hesitate to do so again. The epitome of this group is clearly defined in Nazi propagandist Joseph Gobles famous words “blame your enemy of that which you are guilty of”. So far this has been the case with the “genocide claims” as well as the “siege”. Today there are 6 million people in Tigray held hostage by TPLF.
Throughout its history as a guerilla force, TPLF has been unable to resolve disputes or conflicts with varies opposed groups of the national government peacefully via negotiation. Rather, TPLF has used temporary ceasefire agreements as a tactic to buy more time, to re-arm and rebuild its forces. It had implemented this strategy while fighting the Dergue regime throughout the 1980s. Recently, despite tremendous efforts made by the GoE to foster a more amicable means of ending the conflict, the TPLF continued to ignore calls for peace and understanding. These calls were made even before the start of the conflict in 2020, when the group was building up for military operations.
The outdated hoax of using humanitarian truces to arm itself for another rounds of war has no takers. The group played that card too many times. A recent leaked TPLF document, written in Amharic revealed just how much the group intends to use calls for peace and humanitarian ceasefire to build up its position for more war. The new TPLF invasion and encroachment into Amhara and Afar regions at the midst of AU-led peace efforts have already revealed its innate characteristic of untrustworthiness.
Before the attack of the Northern Command, the terrorist group had demonstrated its intentions to cause a crisis. To dissuade them from this position the GoE sent an emissary of peace to talk to the TPLF. The emissary was composed of elders, religious and civil society leaders, and highly respected individuals. Ignoring all peaceful alternative presented by the Government, TPLF instigated a war. The third and latest offensive was launched on 24 August 2022, violating the humanitarian truce declared by the GoE.
Since the beginning of the law enforcement operation in theTigray region in November 2020, there have been a series efforts made by the GoE with the aim to explaining its position on the situation to the international community. Despite these efforts, some in the West have failed to condemn TPLF’s attacks on the State of Ethiopia and the heinous crimes committed against innocent civilians. What was even more regrettable is that some Western countries and international organizations intensified the orchestrated campaign and undue pressure on the government of Ethiopia using human rights as a pretext. Some have been engaged in disseminating unsubstantiated and politically motivated misinformation and disinformation campaigns that endangers the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country. The Security Council has also deliberated numerous times in closed and open meetings on Ethiopia in an unusual way.
When it comes to the atrocities of the TPLF, the silence of international community has undeniably emboldened it. Despite strong a commitment and goodwill from the part of the Government and people of Ethiopia, some Western countries and UN agencies continued to accuse the Government of Ethiopia, sighting concerns around unfettered humanitarian access and violations of human rights in Tigray region. They also underscore a host of preconditions to normalize the bilateral relation with Ethiopia. The GoE has done its utmost to respect international norms and tried a re-engagement strategy with all Western Countries and multilateral institutions. The so called “Three Asks” or “Basket”, namely unfettered access, accountability and negotiated ceasefire” are all things the GoE diligently tried to achieve without compromising Ethiopia’s right to protect its citizens from a belligerent extremist like the TPLF. In flagrant violation of the norms of international relations, some UN agencies were caught red-handed while smuggling military grade communications instruments and weapons to the TPLF fighters. This placed a needless strain on Ethiopia’s relationship with the humanitarian community.
Weaponization of economic relations for strategic ends including delisting Ethiopia from African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) market access and tabling various bills with the intension to cripple the country were other tools used by the US and its partners to break the will and spirit of Ethiopia. Apart from imposing economic sanctions, the West has initiated numerous resolutions that undermines the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. The resolution passed by the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC) that mandated the establishment of the International Commission of Expert on Ethiopia (ICHREE) could be cited as a case in point.
Regrettably, when the TPLF fighters advanced towards Addis Ababa, the U.S and its allies exerted immense pressure on GoE to step aside, allowing the once again control the capital. Surly, the fact the TPLF was overstretched and in too deep would not have been missed by the observers. Perhaps the assumption was the leadership in Addis would flinch if we spewed enough coordinated disinformation. This proved assessments regarding the straights and weaknesses of the GoE were wrong. For Ethiopians, democracy is not about accepting the verdict of great powers, but rather accepting the will of the people and ensuring supremacy of law above all.
TPLF’s instigation of this third round of war, which began in late August, 2022 was an audaciously reckless step in the wrong direction. This is a clarion call that TPLF has no intentions for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. If the GoE fails to deliver on its constitutional mandate of protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, millions of Ethiopians including people in Tigray region will suffer. The patient approach taken by the GoE has indeed avoided more harm, but doin nothing is not an option.
Despite, an unwavering commitment to multilateralism, international principles, and laws, Ethiopia was senselessly pressured by some members states who acted, not in the spirit of partnership, but rather foe. Ethiopia seeks fairness and justice from international community. But our own history shows that is not guaranteed. In 1935 Ethiopia was invaded by Mussolini fascist Italy after the League of Nations isolated and condemned what was then Africa’s only independent nation state. As a country with a long history of statehood, remains endowed with ample reserve capacity in solving internal crises, but the international community must support these local solutions and avoid rash interference.
Nonetheless, the TPLF has not shown a candid interest to resolving the conflict peacefully. Therefore, changing the equation on the battlefield was a necessity. This also happens to be the shortest and least costly path to bring about a solution while simultaneously preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ethiopian State. The threat of a humanitarian disaster will be averted with the defeat of TPLF, but some in the international community skeptically continue to appease the insurgency, a move which only adds to the misery. Following these military operations, GoE intends to facilitate humanitarian relief, work to restore disrupted services and infrastructure in liberated areas. Finally, in the interest of sustainable peace and development the people of Ethiopia will engage in a free, open, and honest national dialogue, one that sets a precedent for peaceful resolution of internal conflicts for generations to come.