Yesterday evening, Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) took control of Mekelle, the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region. A tweet last night from Ethiopia’s PM, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, declared the following: “I am pleased to share that we have completed and ceased the military operations in the #Tigray region. Our focus now will be on rebuilding the region and providing humanitarian assistance while Federal Police apprehend the TPLF clique.” The PM’s tweet also shared a message with further information.
Hours later, at a little before 10:15pm, six rockets, in relatively quick succession, landed on the outskirts of Asmara. The number of casualties, injuries, and total damage is not yet known, but believed to be extremely minimal or none. I must also stress that Eritrea was/is hardly in a situation of frenzy, chaos, or mayhem. Far from it. Everything remains calm, quiet, and relaxed – a typical late November Sunday morning in Eritrea.
-it’s interesting how the taking of Mekelle by federal forces greatly contrasts the assured analyses and confident predictions of regional experts before the ENDF’s recent campaign. Recall how we were repeatedly told of the TPLF’s massive numbers, strength, and capabilities, and warned that Tigray would be a “graveyard” for “invaders”. However, things in Ethiopia and the region have, so far, panned out differently. For many of us from the region, it is just another example in the long history of “less than stellar” reporting and analysis of our region. The so-called leading experts and top authorities on our region do not need a track record of wise assessments or solid analyses. Some need not even have ever set foot in the locations or met the groups of people for which they claim expertise. All they need are the circular, almost incestuous, recommendations and approval of fellow credential holders.
This is not to say that things are all over. A lot remains to be done to ensure safety and security, as well as to rebuild, heal wounds, and move forward. Things can get (and likely will) be complicated and messy.
-an article by Reuters comments: The leader of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), whose forces have been fighting Ethiopian troops, said the group was not giving up. “Their brutality can only add (to) our resolve to fight these invaders to the last,” TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael told Reuters in a text message. Asked by Reuters if that meant his forces would continue fighting, he replied: “Certainly. This is about defending our right to self determination.”
However, as I commented before, the idea that the TPLF will now be able to engage in a long-term guerrilla campaign needs revision and closer consideration. First, their hasty retreat is hardly along the lines of a “strategic withdrawal”. Second, conditions are far, far different from the 1970/80s. Back then, the TPLF had a supply line, rear support base, and a large, experienced partner for backing (EPLF). Today it is surrounded and closed off on all sides, with few genuine or capable supporters. While it enjoys support of some in Tigray, it is far from the levels it boasts. Many across Tigray are actually against it. Moreover , with long hardship and suffering, how many will continue to support it?
-In 1990, under the Dergue regime of Colonel Mengistu, the Ethiopian air force engaged in a bombing campaign targeting Eritrean civilians, and resulting in the killing and maiming of thousands of non-combatants, including many women and children. The actions were “intended to destroy food relief to prevent it being eaten by people sympathetic to the EPLF, to destroy the port installations, and to terrorize and kill civilian non-combatants as a reprisal for the EPLF’s military successes.” The TPLF’s recent attacks on civilian areas in Eritrea are similar in many ways, particularly in terms of guiding sentiment, although they are far less powerful, strong, or capable.
-Finally, beware of historical revisionism about the TPLF, which has been on display in recent weeks and may continue or increase moving forward. As I stated earlier this month: “we also all should be in total awe of the amazing imagery and portrayals being presented – true masterpieces – that the TPLF is somehow an innocent victim here, that it is a ‘force for good’, that it is genuinely committed to peace and dialogue, and that it is being ‘attacked’ because it chose to defend democracy and protect rights. This is dishonest or deluded. Nothing could be further from the truth. The indelible facts are that the TPLF ignited the latest developments. It is the TPLF that has been preparing for war, stockpiling weapons, and training militias for years (using funds that were actually to be for Tigray’s people and development). And it is the TPLF that has been the obstacle to peace and the central cause of so much of the tension, violence, and instability that have unfolded over the past several months and years. The misguided images and portrayals are also a sharp, bitter insult to the many, many people across the vast expanse of the Horn of Africa who have been the unfortunate recipients of the TPLF’s so-called deep and genuine commitment to democracy, peace, and dialogue.“