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In an April 2022 podcast, William Davidson of the Crisis group indicated he had “Solid Evidence” of TPLF re-arming itself, thanks to dozens of Antonov flights from Sudan to the Tigray region of Ethiopia. His claim that evening flights had been taking place was hardly noticed, but there is also some evidence of locals noticing these flights. However, the wider Ethiopian public had little knowledge of this fact.
On August 24, 2022, Prime Minister of Ethiopia revealed they had knowledge of arms laden foreign cargo flights flying in at night from Sudan into Shire airport in the northern Tigray region. According to the prime minister, Ethiopian intel had known of these overnight flights for several months and had tangible information about their origin and their payload.
This revelation is indeed monumental. It discloses several things. For one, it shows the extent to which the TPLF has become a proxy for regional actors seeking to destabilize Ethiopia. Second, it shows the extent to which foreign patrons of the TPLF are willing to go to sustain the insurgency. Thirdly, now that the issue has been made public, it inevitably becomes an inflection point likely to drag more outsiders into Ethiopia’s northern conflict. Lastly, it behooves the Ethiopian authorities to demonstrate clearly how this has been happening and for how long.
Indeed, there are so many unanswered questions here, but overall, the revelation only adds a level of credence to what many had already suspected. TPLF’s overt invitation for Egyptian support was perhaps missed by many Western observers since the discourse had been largely in Tigrigna and among supporters. Nonetheless, the desire to do so has always been there, and now has come to full fruition.
The flight paths are also another point worth considering. Flying right below the town of Humera and coming from the direction of Sudan is clear collusion by Sudanese authorities. Even if flights are not originating from Sudanese bases, certainly the government in Khartoum is aware and gave greenlight for its air space to be used by a third party.
Lastly, did Ethiopian authorities sit on this intelligence, and if so why? A few days ago, the Ethiopian air-force reported the downing of an Antonov 26 flight in Ethiopian airspace. How long had this been going undeterred or undetected? Five months since April? Public interest to all of these questions will likely prompt parliament to demand the details. The Ethiopian public should know the dangerous role of foreign actors in perpetuating the conflict in the north.