Ethiopia: PM Abiy orders military attack against the TPLF

By Anne-Marie Bissada
Posted on Wednesday, 4 November 2020 09:23

Ethiopia's PM Ahmed
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced this morning that the National Defense Forces (ENDF), was given an order to start a military offensive against the Tigray's People Liberation Front (TPLF) in the Tigray regional state in the north-east of the country.

The PM claimed the offensive comes after the TPLF “took measures” and tried to “rob the Northern Command of artillery and military equipment”.

The Northern Command is based in the town of Mekele, capital city of the Tigray region.

The government tried to avoid war, but war can’t be avoided by one side,” Abiy added.

It raises fears that the second most populous country in Africa will be plunged into divisive ethnic conflict.

READ MORE Abiy Ahmed and the struggle to keep Ethiopia together

The PM says the initial TPLF attack targeted Mekele and the town of Dansha in western Tigray, according to reports from AFP.

The attack on Dansha was repelled by security forces from neigbhouring Amhara region, added Abiy.

Inevitable clashes

Tensions between the TPLF and the government in Addis Ababa have been escalating following regional elections held in Tigray despite a postponement announced of all elections due to the coronavirus pandemic, including general ones initially meant to be held in August.

They have since been postponed to no later than October of 2021.

Things came to a breaking point last month when parliament voted to break off ties with the political administration in Tigray.

According to a statement from the office of the Prime Minister,  the Federal Government has been subjected “continued provocation and incitement for violence by TPLF” over the past months.

It adds: “While the Federal government has uses all means to thwart a military engagement against the TPLF, a war however cannot be prevented only on the goodwill and decision of one side, but on the mutual choice for peace by both parties. The last red line has been crossed with this morning’s attacks and the Federal government is therefore forced into a military confrontation.”

Caution to any military intervention

However, in a report issued last last week, the International Crisis Group warns that any conflict between the sides might “threaten the Ethiopian state’s integrity.”

“Any conflict between the sides might threaten the Ethiopian state’s integrity.”

It adds that rather than pursue an open conflict, both sides should seek “comprehensive dialogue.”

The group has also cautioned against any move towards Tigray’s independence that could “trigger resistance among Amhara nationalist factions” who claim a loss of their territories to the Tigray in the early 1990s.

TPLF seeks dialogue, not negotiation

Ahead of Wednesday’s attack, Getachew Reda, an advisor to the President of the Tigray state and member of the executive committee said the TPLF would “not accept a negotiation with the federal government.”

He added: “What we need now is a national dialogue, not a negotiation,” in addition to the release of detained former officials “as a precondition to opening talks.”

We will continue to track developments in the story and will update further. 

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options