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My observation on Ethiopia’s ongoing conflict and its effects on Tigray Region
Opinion | By R. Nhial Tuany
Nov 17, 2020 (Thessherald)–The recent killing of civilians in the Ethiopian Tigray Region has drawn international attention and reports of escalating violence are making daily headlines in international news media, prompting human rights organizations to call for an investigation into alleged war crimes committed.
This week, it was reported on VOA, BBC, UN, Al Jazeera and many other networks. The alleged perpetrators are said to be from TPLF Army. However, the TPLF leadership said those are wild accusations.
As the conflict enters the third week, Eritrea finds itself in a hostile situation with rockets directed into it’s territory. While there were no serious casualties, the rockets hit the outskirts of Asmara, the nation’s capital. President Isaias Afwerki, the lone and longest serving leader in the Horn of Africa is not a fan of the TPLF party which is currently governing Tigray Region.
The two sides were involved in a deadly border war on a disputed territory of Badme in the late ‘90s but an agreement was reached in the early 2000’s to silence the guns, but tensions between the two neighbors did not subside until the coming to power of Abiy Ahmed Ali the PM of Ethiopia in 2018.
Prime Minister Abiy came to power with aggressive reforms in a country which was dominated by TPLF political machine from Tigray Region. He went on to establish relations with Eritrea and invited President Isaias to tour various cities in his country.
Ethiopian Airlines for the first time went to Eritrea
His initiatives of reforms and peace with Eritrea elevated his stocks as a man of peace and won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
The current war in Tigray Regional State is a wrong move for Ethiopia for many reasons, but I will leave that for political analysts.
In this article, I will focus my observations primarily on the Tigray TPLF Party and its branches on why it is bad for them to invite the war to their ancestral home Tigray.
The TPLF ruling party in Tigray Regional State which was also a party in the federal government has enjoyed a considerable influence over Ethiopia for a while. It has a lot to lose by choosing confrontation this time although they felt marginalized and targeted by Abiy led government.
The best (TPLF) could have done is wait, strategize and comply with Federal authorities. Unless there is a surprise shift in the conflict where their forces are victorious, there is high possibility and in the long run Mekelle, the largest city could be taken by the federal army. If this happens, it would mean displacement of hundred of thousands civilians pouring in to Sudan.
The TPLF army would retreat to the mountains regroup and fight on as rebels. Again, no one can question their capabilities. History was on their side during the 30 years struggle against a vicious Derge which ruled Ethiopia until 1991 when TPLF army marched to Addis Ababa taken control of the whole country. But things have changed from early ‘90s and now. Eritrea is no longer going to fight by its side. At the end of the day, it’s Tigray region that may be destabilized. Those who are in Eastern Africa have seen the ugly nature of war in Somalia and most recently in South Sudan where many civilians were displaced from regions such as Upper Nile and Equatoria.
TPLF army in Mekelle could have done the following before getting dragged into messy hostility: ~
• Work with the federal government in Addis Ababa, comply by handing over the so called “Most Wanted Fugitives” who found sanctuary in Mekelle City.
• Design a formula and work with other Oromo where it could trap Abiy by taking advantage of the division within Oromia and use the firebrand Oromo Nationalist leader Jawar Mohammed followers who are unhappy with PM Abiy. This way, they could find ways to topple the government and take (BETE MENGIST/ STATE HOUSE) without a single shot fire in Tigray.
• Use the federal government machinery to their advantage: – Tigray men and women in uniforms are well equipped inside various regions in Ethiopia through Army, Federal Police and Security. They know where all the weapons are stocked. They dominated key positions, so challenge the system covertly in a way where it would be difficult for Abiy to make a move on them as he is doing with his injection of a six month state of emergency in Tigray Regional State.
• Economic power : – TPLF for almost thirty years has entrenched its foot on the economy. Most of the businesses are controlled by them. Who would want to loss such leverage? They could have think twice, because any military operation in Tigray by the federal government would affects all Tigrian in Ethiopia, specifically their bottom line, money. The business community could have played a big role in calming regional leaders like Dr. Debretsion G/Michael, Dr. Addis Alem, Spokesman’s Reda and those with influence to play a safe political game before the federal army is forced to move on them as they are doing now.
• Elections in the region: – The party leaders (TPLF) could have complied and not run their own sham elections where TPLF won with over 90% of the votes unopposed (other parties boycotted). By going ahead with the elections, they were directly poking the federal government in the eye, and brazenly saying they got muscles to do away without its approval as Covid19 was raging on in the world, a dangerous precedent.
In conclusion, the TPLF leadership in Mekelle opened a pandora box which it may not be able to close. The civilians are the ones to suffer in the long run. It’s not a risk worth to take even if they successfully win militarily in the foreseeable future. Right now, PM Abiy has the upper hand and will try his best to unite all Ethiopian and bring them to his side in the fight against the (TPLF Junta), a name politically coined recently by the federal government to dirty the image of TPLF and its supporters.
The author is a South Sudanese American and can be reached at:
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