Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on Wednesday the start of a military offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party in the region, which he accuses of having attacked a federal army base to try to steal military equipment, causing “numerous deaths, injuries and material damage,” according to a televised statement. “The last red line has been crossed with the attacks this morning and, therefore, the federal government is forced to a military confrontation,” Ahmed added in a statement. Hours later, the Council of Ministers declared a state of emergency in the Tigray region.
The statement by Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, leaves no room for doubt. “The federal government”, he assures, “has used all the means to avoid a military action against the TPLF, but a war cannot be prevented only with the good will and the decision of one of the parties, but with the mutual choice of the peace on both sides ”. The Ethiopian leader assures that the Tigray authorities have been arming illegal militias for weeks and that they have also ordered the preparation of uniforms that mimic those of the Eritrean Army to try to implicate this country, with which Ethiopia signed peace in 2018. For all these reasons, the Prime Minister has ordered the Federal Army “to carry out its mission of saving the country and the region from a spiral of instability” and has asked his compatriots to remain calm and support the Armed Forces “in this critical moment ”.
Hours later, the Council of Ministers has decreed a state of emergency in Tigray for an initial period of six months, alleging that “illegal and violent activities within the National Regional State of Tigray are endangering the Constitution and the constitutional order, the public peace and security and especially threatening national sovereignty ”. In this regard, the federal government has added that the situation “has reached a level that cannot be prevented or controlled with regular law enforcement mechanisms.”
The TPLF was one of the regional guerrillas that, together with other armed movements of the Oromo, Amhara and other ethnic groups, contributed to the overthrow of the communist regime of Mengistu Hailé Mariam in 1991. Later, it was integrated into the Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian People ( EPRDF, for its acronym in English), the party that dominated the political scene until 2018 and in which it always maintained a dominant position. After the arrival of the Oromo Ahmed to the government and his new philosophy of unity and adoption of Ethiopian citizenship beyond belonging to each community, he has met with enormous resistance and the Tigray, who feel expelled from power, have been the first to take the step.
In December 2019, at the instigation of the new prime minister, the different ethnic groups that made up the EPRDF dissolved to create the Party of Prosperity. All except the TPLF, which controls its region and has since gone it alone. When the Government adopted the controversial decision to delay the elections scheduled for last August due to covid-19, the Tigray authorities declared themselves in absentia and decided to hold their own elections in September to, from that moment, not grant any legitimacy to the Government and the Federal Parliament, considering that their mandate had expired. Addis Ababa no longer recognizes the regional executive of the TPLF because the elections were not authorized by the central power.
Hostile gestures have been taking place in recent weeks: Ethiopian senators approved to cut all ties and funding to the Tigray authorities and just a few days ago, the TPLF prevented a general appointed by the federal government from taking office in the region. The alleged attack on a military base by the rebels was the casus belli that this conflict lacked. On Tuesday, Wondimu Asamnew, a senior Tigray official, assured France Press that the Ethiopian Armed Forces were positioning themselves on the regional border. “When the military mobilization begins, it is not child’s play. A total war can break out, we are on alert and I can assure you that we are capable of defending ourselves, ”he said.