lunedì, Ottobre 18

Ethiopia: it’s civil war The clash between the federal government and the regional government of Tigray which has seen reduced political and economic power of the region and the power of the TPLF is likely to lead to a confrontation at the national level. Waging war on the Tigray seems like a suicidal decision by the federal government


The Tigray People’s Liberation Front two days ago attacked a military barracks of the federal army in the Tigray region and managed to recover a large quantity of weapons and ammunition. This blitz initiates the military confrontation between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed federal government and the “rebel” northern region on the border with Ethiopia. The TPLF was the dominant force in the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a multi-ethnic four-party coalition that had led the country for nearly 30 years before Abiy came to power in 2018 in the wake of widespread national anti-government protests following the serious political crisis that since 2014 had resulted in a dangerous social – ethnic clash between the Federal Government and the Amara and Oromo ethnic groups.

Prime Minister Abiy has progressively diminished the power of the TPLF and its control over the administration, army and national economy. Last January, the Tigrinya leadership decided to leave EPRDF government coalition. For the first time in 30 years, the revolutionary movement that liberated the country from the ferocious Stalinist dictatorship of Mènghistu Haile Mariàm in 1991 finds itself in opposition.

Peace with Eritrea (one of the first diplomatic successes obtained by Abiy which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize) was experienced by the TPLF as a betrayal of the revolutionary cause that inspired the movement against Mènghistu, the attempt to prevent secession of Eritrea and the subsequent trench warfare on the border. War mainly fought right in Tigray. A second reason for the clash between the Tigrinya leadership and Abiy was the progressive erosion of economic power suffered by the TPLF through a series of anti-corruption investigations which compromised the business network created by TPLF political and military leaders from 1991 to the present. The “zero tolerance” policy of corruption and conflicts of interest promoted by the Prime Minister is marred by serious doubts (shared by various international experts) that the informal Tigrinya network that controlled the country’s economy is about to be replaced by another very opaque controlled by the Prime Minister.

The straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed Tigray to strengthen its regional autonomy (perhaps even in anticipation of an independence) was the Prime Minister’s decision to cancel national elections in August due to the coronavirus pandemic. On the contrary, the TPLF and the various opposition parties believed it was possible to hold elections with respect for preventive health measures, interpreting Abiy’s decision as a Constitutional Coup to stay in office.

Tigray regional government reaction was to promote a sense of nationalistic revenge among the ethnic Tigrinya, to accuse the federal government of wanting to set up a dictatorship and to hold regional elections in Tigris regardless of the decisions taken by the Prime Minister. The elections were held last September with the victory of the TPLF but not considered valid by the federal government. In early October, the federal government had decided to stop contact with the Tigray regional government and state funding for health care, education and development.

Following the attack on the barracks, the Prime Minister ordered a state of emergency in the Tigray region and summoned the General Staff of the Armed Forces to plan a land and air offensive against the forces of the revolutionary TPLF party already defined as “rebels”. In a post on social media, Abiy dusts off the warmongering terms already used in October 2019 against Egypt and part of the delicate dispute over the water resources of the Nile, compromised by the construction of the mega Great Reinassance dam in Ethiopia whose work has been entrusted to the Italian company Salini Impregilo. At the time, the Ethiopian Nobel Peace Prize laureate informed Egypt that he was willing to wage a war to defend the mega dam even at the cost of recruiting 10 million young Ethiopians. The declaration blew up the mediation offered by the United States and still no agreement has been found between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the complicated issue, despite the evident risk of an armed conflict between Cairo – Khartoum and Addis Ababa that would upset the entire region.

Our defense forces have been ordered to carry out their mission to save the country. The last point on the red line has been passed. Force is used as a last resort to save people and the country, ” Ethiopian Prime Minister said. Abiy did not provide any information on the nature of the response, but observers warned that the current situation of deep conflict between the government and the TPLF could lead to violence.

Wednesday, the local government and Tigray said that the Northern Command of the Federal Armed Forces, which is stationed in the region, defected to his side. Addis Ababa rejected the claim as “Fake News”. As a first preventive measure, the federal government has closed access to the Internet and telecommunications of fixed and mobile telephony in the Tigray region

The casus belli between Makelle and Addis Ababa was the appointment of a General of the Northern Armed Forces by the Prime Minister without having consulted the TPLF. According to various regional observers, the move was aimed at depriving the Tigrinya regional government of control of the Northern divisions in order to prevent coups or a military uprising. Unfortunately, this move sparked the anger of the TPLF which forcibly prevented the appointment of the General controlled by Abiy.

The civil war in Ethiopia is in its early stages and there is still plenty of room to stop it. Unfortunately, the political and economic motivations that concern the control of the country are also accompanied by rancor and personal hatred between Prime Minister Abiy Hamed and the President of Tigrai: Debretsion Gebremichael that could prevent any possibility of political dialogue to prevent the civil war from continuing a dramatic national dimension.

Waging war on the Tigris seems like a suicidal decision by the federal government as the TPLF not only has total control of the Northern divisions but controls over half of the army, mechanized divisions and the Air Force.

At the moment we are witnessing a worrying escalation. The TPLF is about to launch mass enlistment messages among the Tigrinya population by inviting women and men aged 14 to 50 to take up arms in defense of their homeland. It is also working under the table to create mass desertions within the Armed Forces. The federal government is amassing divisions loyal to Abiy on the southern border of Tigray ready to invade the region. Confidential sources inform that two weeks ago Abiy would have agreed a military cooperation agreement with the Eritrean government and asked Eritrean troops to invade the Tigris from the north in case of extreme necessity. Information categorically denied by the federal government.

From now on, even a small spark can ignite civil war throughout the country. The undesirable but probable civil war is the result of the tensions that have arisen and the inability on both sides to resolve differences in a peaceful and democratic way. The current military escalation could lead to a devastating civil war that could be long-term compromising the stability of Ethiopia and the entire region”, said William Davison, International Crisis Group senior analyst for Ethiopia.

The danger of civil war is part of the complicated national situation of ethnic tensions with the Oromo and Amara and the situation of the water resources of the Nile. In these two cases too, the warmongering attitude chosen by Prime Minister Abiy is aggravating the situation instead of resolving it. If a military clash breaks out between the Federal Government and Makalle (capital of Tigray), Oromo and Amara could take advantage of it to attempt an armed uprising and break away from the Ethiopian Federation. A probability that should not be underestimated as Egypt has resumed its political support for the secessionist movements Oromo and Amara. Many regional observers suspect that Cairo has also resumed the supply of weapons and ammunition guaranteed to the Oromo between 2016 and 2018.

The prime minister’s total disdain for the various attempts to reach a compromise on the management of the Nile’s waters and the unilateral decision to fill the reservoir of the Grande Rinascita dam in order to start an energy production within a year are leading straight to the first African conflict over water. Two weeks ago, US President Donald Trump in an official speech actually endorsed a possible Egyptian military option against the dam in Ethiopia. What better occasion for Cairo than a civil war to launch long-range missiles to destroy the dam, certain of the impossibility of a military response from the Ethiopian side?

The threat of an armed conflict between the federal government and the Tigray authorities had been in turmoil for some time, so the current escalation came as no surprise to many Ethiopians.

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