“The European Union joins the US call for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Ethiopia, which are fueling the conflict in Tigray, committing atrocities and exacerbating ethnic violence. The European Union remains very concerned about the ongoing tragic humanitarian crisis in Tigray and its regional implications. The EU expresses its support for the work of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and encourages it to continue the investigation into allegations of human rights violations and abuses and violations of international law. We hope that the Government of Ethiopia approves its recommendations and fully implements the independent investigations and judicial proceedings announced to ensure full accountability for the violations and abuses committed. International media access to Tigray must be authorized and local journalists must be protected.” This is the summary of the official statement signed by the High Representative, European Vice President Josep Borreland the European Commissioners Jutta Urpilainen and JanezLenarčič issued on Monday 8 February followed by a sinister silence from the Ethiopian and Eritrean authorities.
A silence that hides the escalation of the conflict. After 98 days of fighting, the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front – TPLF not only resist but are able to launch various offensives against the federal army, the fascist Amhara militias and the Eritrean occupation troops. The TPLF is betting on a long-lasting war capable of economically bleeding the federal government. Diplomatic sources inform that within the federal army there areregistering desertions and refusals to fight motivated by the atrocities against civilians that thousands of young Ethiopian soldiers have witnessed and the presence of Eritrean troops who do not respond to the Ethiopian General Staff and they wage a totally independent asymmetric warfare. The risk for the Ethiopian Premier, Abiy Ahmed Ali is to be forced to sit down in peace negotiations with the TPLF and thus end his nefarious career as Prime Minister.
To avoid his downfall, Abiy asked dictator Isaias Afewerki to launch a second offensive in Tigray with the aim of destroying the TPLF by the end of February. To reach this target, the Ethiopian government would have paid approximately 500 million dollars to the Asmara government to support the war effort, again according to diplomatic sources within the African Union. According to the same sources, Abiy pledged to pay for the Eritrean intervention with 1 billion dollars. A news that, if confirmed, seriously compromises the request made two weeks ago to the G20 for a substantial reduction in foreign debt to “start the national vaccination campaign against Covid19”.
The second offensive in Tigray, almost entirely entrusted to the Eritrean army, began on Sunday 7th February. Detailed information from African intelligence arrives also confirmed by authoritative journalistic sources (linked to them) including the famous journalist Martin Plaut, expert on the Horn of Africa and South Africa, which highlight a large-scale Eritrean offensive that would involve almost half of the divisions of the Asmara army. General Eyob alias Halibay, known for his cruelty and accused of various unspeakable war crimes committed during the Ethiopian Eritrean conflict (), was placed in command of the mighty invasion force.
The 29th, 53rd and 71st Infantry Divisions and the 49th Eritrean Mechanized Divisions are targeting the central areas of Tigray in the hands of the TPLF. Another 3 infantries and 1 mechanized division are heading towards Hawzen and Nebele. The 163rd Paratrooper Division is aiming to occupy the Endabaguna area while the 17th and 61st Infantry Divisions along with three mechanized divisions are tasked with annihilating the TPLF resistance in northern Tigray. There is fighting near the city of Shire in the direction of Aksum. Shire is one of the few Ethiopian cities under federal control and the fighting, mainly by the Eritrean army, was necessary to block a TPLF offensive aimed at regaining the city.
Thinking clashes are recorded in the small town of Mai Hrmazwhere the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) managed to stop the advance of Eritrean soldiers by killing over 500. To break the resistance, Eritrean General Eyob – Halibay ordered a relentless fire artillery on the town. According to testimonies, Mai Hrmazwas literally destroyed with a massacre of civilians of unprecedented proportions. The bombing of the city lasted 48 hours without stopping. An incomprehensible tactic given that the lines of defense of the TDF are not positioned in the town precisely to avoid involving civilians.
Intense fighting is taking place in the Guya and Kola Tembienareas where the Tigrinya defense forces have managed to stop the Eritrean advance by destroying an entire Eritrean battalion. Fights are also recorded near the capital Mekelle in the May Keyah and Wajirat areas about 60km from the capital. Eritrean troops about to launch an offensive would have been surprised by a counter-offensive by the TDF and would have placed themselves on defensive lines for hours with the aim of preventing the Tigrinya forces from recapturing Mekelle. In retaliation, Eritrean troops and Amhara fascist militias allegedly carried out mass executions of civilians in the cities of Adigrat, Wukro and Freweyni. The exact number of victims is not yet known.
In the midst of the offensive, there are evidences of massacres of civilians and looting of property and goods carried out by Eritrean forces in the areas they control. “Eritrean soldiers not engaged in the fighting are engaging in organized looting in some cities of Tigray under their control except Mekelle so as not to reveal their presence to international public opinion. Every house is systematically ransacked of property and stripped of everything. Televisions, radios, satellite dishes, mobile phones, mattresses, furniture. Even the clothes.
Doors, windows, tin roofs and electrical systems are dismantled. All cattle are stolen to feed Eritrean troops in combat. Chickens, cows, goats, even rabbits. At the slightest sign of resistance or protest from homeowners, the family is exterminated from the elderly to the new-borns. Plundered animals and goods are loaded onto Eritrean military trucks that are heading under armed escort to Asmara. Ethiopian federal soldiers lazily observe this violence without intervening. Worse still some of them applaud the Eritrean mercenaries encouraging them to kill civilians.” This is the testimony reported by various witnesses to the journalist Martin Plaut. Among the cities victims of this unprecedented violence are Adwa and Axum. The tactic is identical to that used by the Croatian Serb militias and the Serbian army during the civil war in Yugoslavia.
In general, the second offensive aimed at annihilating the TPLF may not proceeding according to the “optimistic” forecasts of the Eritrean and Federal Generals. News arrives that the Addis Ababa government has decreed the forced enrollment of students of both sexes at Ethiopian universities. Many of them are trying to escape from soldiers and police to avoid certain death on the Tigrinya front.
How to explain the resilience of the TPLF forces which, according to Prime Minister Abiy, had been definitively defeated on November 28, 2020? A “virtual” victory reaffirmed on December 7, 2020 by a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office: “” The reality is that the criminal clique of the TPLF is completely defeated and in disarray, with an insignificant capacity to organize a protracted insurrection “. A convincing explanation is offered by Nathanael Tilahum Assistant Professor of Law at Coventry University in the UK.
“The TPLF has always had a formidable military force parallel to the federal army controlled by it until January 2020. A military force disguised as regional security forces that at the beginning of the conflict had 250,000 men to which must be added the units of the division Northern Command, the elite troops of the Federal Army switched to the side of the TPLF on November 2, 2020. This parallel army owns more than half of the country’s military equipment and arsenal, including surface-to-air missile batteries, as well as weapons more sophisticated and modern. The soldiers of this force are strictly Tigrinians, ideologically motivated and super trained. In comparison, the federal army of only 160,000 men with inadequate weapons and training is very little.
For this reason, the Addis Ababa government was forced to resort to Eritrea when the decision was made to transform the political confrontation between the Prime Minister’s Prosperity Party and the TPLF into a military confrontation. Certainly, the Amhara militias alone attached to the federal army were not enough. The risk was that the TPLF had not only been able to block the Addis Ababa offensive but also to launch a counter-offensive and capture the Ethiopian capital. In fact, the entire conflict in Tigray is being carried out by the Eritrean army.
The most probable scenario is the continuation of the fighting that could extend to the centre of the Country involving various regional and paramilitary Ethiopian forces with conflicting interests and objectives, thus creating the balkanization of the country. The TPLF focuses on a protracted and all-encompassing war by creating a stalemate paralizing for the central government and bleeding it economically. “
If the offensive of the Eritrean army is stopped, the TPLF would gain a position of military and territorial advantage which, combined with the growing international pressures directed at the federal government and the requests for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops, would position the Tigrinya leadership in the possibility of negotiating a peace agreement, at best. Various observers agree that the TPLF is not aiming at the independence of the region but at the collapse of the central government to regain power at the national level, perhaps more structured than the previous ruling coalition by incorporating other political realities antagonistic to the Premier, such as the Oromo. The risk inherent in this strategy is that of strengthening the independence forces, creating the conditions for a balkanization of the country.
In the chaotic and precarious situation in which Ethiopia finds itself due to the power games of the Premier and the Amhara leadership, Oromia is destined to play a leading role. Both the TPLF and the Egyptian and (perhaps) Sudanese intelligence are aiming at an open revolt of the country’s most important ethnic group (34.9% of the population) followed by the Amhara (27.9%) and the Tigrinya (7.3 %).
Since Friday 5th February in the state of Oromia (which is also home to the capital Addis Ababa), several popular revolts have broken out in support of Oromo politicians who are political prisoners of the Federal Government, including Jawar Mohammad (a former faithful collaborator of the Ethiopian Premier who rebelled against his ethnic policy according to Amhara leadershipwill), Bekele Gerba and Hamza Borana leader of the opposition party Oromo Federalist Congress OFC. The federal police are desperately trying to stop the protests. Many students were arrested and beaten by the police according to eyewitnesses. The Oromo revolt comes in the wake of the hunger strike carried out by the Oromo political prisoners that began on January 27 in protest of the wave of arrests of about 80 supporters and family members carried out on January 26 during the hearing in the court that confirmed their accusation of High treason. According to the Oromo Political Prisoners Defense Team lawyer pool, nearly 5,000 Oromo political prisoners are held in federal prisons.
Simultaneously with the beginning of the Oromo uprising, peaceful resistance by the population in Tigray against the Eritrean occupation troops and the aggression of Ethiopian federal troops are being witnessed. Between 8 and 9 February the capital Mekelle (under federal control) was the epicenter of protests organized by the civil resistance against the violence of federal troops and the aggression of Eritrea in Tigray. Hundreds of young Tigrayans blocked the main arteries of the capital by burning tires and throwing stones at the riot forces. Prime Minister Abiy, terrified of rising popular resistance in Tigray, ordered police to shoot free-range protesters.
The number of victims is unknown, which could be dozens. Only one body arrived at Ayder Referral Hospital according to the testimony of a doctor. “There could be dozens and dozens of victims among the young demonstrators. Dead bodies and injured people are not being taken to hospital for fear of retaliation by the federal government. They are hidden in their homes or buried in secret. ” The doctor told the international media, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. All the merchants in Mekelle have closed their shops in solidarity with the young protesters and to show their anger towards the federal government. “The government is trying to show the international community that all is well in Tigray and the peace is already completely stabilized. On the contrary, the citizens of Mekelle are victims of the abuse and violence of the Eritrean feds and mercenaries,” said one resident. who also asked for anonymity for security reasons, stating that Eritrean soldiers disguised in Ethiopian federal army uniforms also participated in the massacre of the young demonstrators.
Evidence of sexual violence against Tigrinya women aged 12 to 80 has deteriorated the now compromised image of Premier AbiyAhmed Ali. The United Nations has received “disturbing” reports of sexual violence and abuse in the Tigray region, including people forced to rape members of their own family. PramilaPatten, the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflicts, said she was very concerned about the serious allegations from the northern region, including “a high number of alleged rapes” in the capital of Tigray, Mekelle. “There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly being forced to rape members their own family, under threat of imminent violence“Patten said in a statement Thursday.” Women in Tigray currently do not feel safe and there is no protection. Women are being held hostage and must take the responsibility for the lives of their families instead of actually talking about what is happening to them. “denounces an Ethiopian female activist in the video reproduced here.
Tigrinya civil society and the diaspora are drafting a road map to stop the war and open peace negotiations. The main demands are: withdrawal of Eritrean troops, ceasefire, unrestricted and unconditional access of humanitarian aid both in the areas controlled by the federal and in those controlled by the TPLF, restoration of health care facilities in order to assist thepopulation, sending UN Blue Helmets as a military force of interposition between the federal and the Tigrinya defense forces, the start of peace negotiations monitored by the African Union, the European Union, the United Nations and the United States.
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