Tag: TPLF

Tigray Crisis: TPLF still fighting against forces in Mekelle, release federal soldiers
Middle East & Africa

Tigray Crisis: TPLF still fighting against forces in Mekelle, release federal soldiers

TPLF still fighting against forces: The month-long conflict between Addis Ababa government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) in the northern region of Tigray has reached its “final phase”. The fighting is continuing in the region’s capital, Mekelle, which was taken under control by federal forces at weekend. TPLF’s leader Debretsion Gebremichael has also said that its fighters have retaken another city, Aksum, back from the military. But government claims that TPLF has been crushed and is in no position to engage in a guerilla war.

Hundreds and thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in Tigray region. Hundreds have been forced to fled and many displaced, spreading concern among UN and other human rights groups regarding the humanitarian crisis. 

PM Abiy Ahmed has said of no civilian killings as of Monday. The claims, however, can’t be confirmed of either side as the region has been completely cut off of any communication lines, including phone and internet. 

TPLF has also released over 4000 captured federal soldiers. They were held captive when the TPLF troops had attacked a military base in early November. This attack by Tigray forces was the last straw that had initiated the bloody conflict. 

In recent messages from TPLF leader, Gebremichael, he said that Tigray forces had shot down federal warplane and taken the pilot into captivity. Also, he said that “TPLF was close to Mekelle, fighting.”  

The claims have however been rubbished by the government. Abiy Ahmed announced that Mekelle had been captured by federal army on Saturday, marking it as “last phase” in the offensive. According to the ministers in Abiy Ahmed’s government, the TPLF rebels are “running for their lives.”

The most horrid part of the Tigray crisis is the lack and limited access of humanitarian aid in the conflict zone. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Sunday that the supplies in main hospital in Mekelle are running “dangerously low”, including body bags. But no official figure on number of injured or dead has been communicated. 

Though the government officials have ensured humanitarian aids and groups to carry out their work in Tigray, UN has called for better access saying “it is extremely concerned about the safety and welfare of civilians in Tigray”

TPLF troops have also been deployed to its border with Sudan to stop people fleeing to the neighbouring country. 

International community is urging Ethiopian government to open a dialogue for resolving the crisis. 

Tigray crisis: Ethiopian army advances with attacks, claims control on several towns
Middle East & Africa

Tigray crisis: Ethiopian army advances with attacks, claims control on several towns

Ethiopian army: Weeks into the conflict between Ethiopian army and the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front in the north Tigray region of Ethiopia, army has advanced with what it calls the ‘final phase’ of the offensive in region to cease the TPLF control in the region. After the 72 hours deadline given by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to rebels to surrender expired on Wednesday, the army has begun its operation and proceeded its advancement towards the region. 

The army has claimed of since seizing control of many towns in the northern Tigray region. Lt. Gen. Hassan Ibrahim has communicated of capturing various towns including Wikro town, that lies north of Mekelle, capital city of Tigray. 

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The Tigray conflict has been gaining attention of human rights groups and activists, and the United Nations that are fearing a greater humanitarian crisis in the region due to bloody and aggressively advancing conflict. Till date hundreds and thousands of people have been killed and several have been forced to fled from their homes to escape the war and as the towns get seized by the Ethiopian army. Hundreds of people have also been reported to fled to neighbouring Sudan, which the UN fears can lead to crisis in Sudan also as the country is already receiving great influx of immigrants from other African countries. 

Ethiopian government has blocked all communication channels, including internet and mobile communications with Tigray region and hence exact details of fighting are tough to confirm. 

On Friday, PM Abiy Ahmed told African Union (AU) appointed peace envoy that civilians will be protected in the region. Ahmed had also previously told Mekelle civilians to stay at home. TPLF, the governing body in Tigray has vowed to keep fighting and refused to surrender. 

No humanitarian worker or AU envoy are allowed to visit the conflict zone and this has been raising concerns. UN has warned of war crimes due to absence of any neutral body in Tigray region. In response, Ethiopian authorities have said of opening a ‘humanitarian access route’ in region that well be overseen by Ethiopian government. They affirmed of their commitment to “work with UN agencies… to protect civilians and those who need it.”

On Thursday, army sealed its borders with Sudan to prevent people from fleeing the war in country. Already over 40,000 have been displaced. 

Experts at the UN fear that in absence of either side ready to settle down, the war can turn into a guerilla conflict. TPLF leader, Debretsion Gebremichael said that Tigray forces are “ready to die in defence of our right to administer our region.” The conflict has great chances of destabilizing the Horn of Africa. 

Tigray crisis: ethnic dimension to conflict sparks fear of racial cleansing in Ethiopia
Middle East & Africa

Tigray crisis: ethnic dimension to conflict sparks fear of racial cleansing in Ethiopia

Tigray crisis: Ethiopia is under rampant and aggressive conflict in the Tigray region led by long time friction between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The offensive led by Abiy Ahmed makes it clear emphasizing that the conflict is against the ‘criminal’ dominant party in the northern Tigray region, TPLF. But recent reports from Ethiopian citizens tell an entirely different story. The citizens inhabiting the region claim of an ethnic dimension and racial profiling in the ongoing conflict. The government, however, has rejected of any such activities and has instead argued that any action in the region is backed by a security reason. 

Many people in the security forces and military have reported of being ordered to stay home and have been stripped off weapons. One such female officer, employed in police forces for over 20 years, has come forward with her story. She shares of being part of TPLF before joining police. Two days after fighting began between two sides, she received orders from superiors to “hand over all government property and my firearm.” Similarly, many senior ranking officials who are Tigrayan, too have been given same orders.

Government hasn’t cleared the allegations but has condemned any such actions if true. Mamo Mihretu, senior advisor to PM Abiy Ahmed said, “There is a clear instruction to the security agencies to take their measures based on risk and actionable intelligence.” He added that actions were aimed at “hardliners – disgruntled and reactionary elements of the TPLF.”

Few soldiers with long service in federal forces too have reported of being singled out due to their Tigrayan ethnicity. This has come out as a shock as Abiy Ahmed, last year’s winner of Nobel Peace Prize, since coming to power in 2018 has stressed on national integrity and unity while respecting individual rights and identities of Ethiopian people, country which has 10 federal states of separate ethnicities. The fallout as a result of conflict has raised questions on Ahmed’s ability to follow the initial position. 

Another shocking incident has come to light. A soldier shares that he was detained in a warehouse along with at least 90 armed forces soldiers who were Tigrayan. They were detained by fellow soldiers and were treated as ‘prisoners of war’. He added, “It was only the Tigrayans who were disarmed and detained together. So, it’s obviously based on our ethnicity.” 

Detained soldiers and officials include the veterans who were a part of the 1991’s struggle of TPLF against Marxist dictator Mengistu Hailemaiam. After he was toppled, TPLF became a strong political entity in Ethiopia. But after Abiy Ahmed came to power, the TPLF was sidelined. Veterans who had served in African Union in Somalia too are among the detained officials. 

Tigrayans constitute 6% of the total Ethiopian population. Other major ethnic groups in the country are Oromo (34%), Amhara (27%), Somali (6.2%), Sidama (4%), Gurage (2.5%), Wolayta (2.3%) and Hadiya (1.7%). 

But the ethnic profiling accusation is not limited to military and police officers, but also civilians. The homes of Tigrayan civilians are being searched by armed forces, their bank account documents seized and capturing people. 

UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) officials have said that they were approached by police officers at the Amhara office and asked them of details of their employees along with birthplaces. 

The fear is that if the conflict extends then ethnic profiling can be a big problem with looming fear of ethnic cleansing. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has urged international community to “standby until the government of Ethiopia submits its request for assistance”. 

Deadline set by government for rebels to surrender is set to expire on Wednesday. This will mark three weeks of ongoing fighting in Tigray region. 

‘Spare Tigray civilians’: Ethiopia urged as PM gives rebels 72 hours to surrender
Middle East & Africa

‘Spare Tigray civilians’: Ethiopia urged as PM gives rebels 72 hours to surrender

Spare Tigray civilians: Ethiopia is facing humanitarian crisis to extremity, attracting international cries of sparing civilians in the Tigray region. Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed has given the Tigrayan rebel forces 72 hours to surrender as military advances on the capital, Mekelle. The rebels of region, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which control the mountainous region have pledged to keep fighting. 

The United Nations has warned of extreme humanitarian crisis in Tigray as hundreds and thousands of people have already succumbed to the conflict so far with thousands displaced. Over 36,000 people have reportedly fled to nearby Sudan and others are moving withing Tigray to escape from the war-torn region. Warning issued by Ethiopian government regarding attack on Mekelle may prompt further displacement of over half million inhabitants of the capital. 

On Sunday night, PM Abiy Ahmed posted on Twitter, “We urge you to surrender peacefully within 72hours, recognizing that you are at the point of no return.” 

Country’s military has warned civilians to separate themselves from the rebels who are believed to be hiding withing the civilian areas or no mercy will be offered in the assault. Military has said that tanks are encircling Mekelle and artillery too might be used on the highland capital city situated in northern Tigray region, that lies on a plateau at altitude of over 2,500 metres. 

Col. Dejene Tsegaye said that till now military has avoided targets that might risk civilians but noted that Mekelle might be a different case. He said, “The next phases are the decisive part of the operation, which is to encircle Mekelle using tanks, finishing the battle on mountainous areas and advancing to the fields.” 

Abiy Ahmed hinted last week of future attacks as “final push” to end the conflict withing few days. But assessment by UN says otherwise. UN suggests that Ethiopian military forces are facing resistance than is being communicated officially. Though troops were deployed days before, they are still struggling to secure territory. This, as per UN experts, raises chances of a lengthy and bloody guerilla war. 

The war is result of consummation of months of turmoil and conflicts between TPLF and ruling party in Addis Ababa. TPLF held the polling even after national elections were cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic. This further aggravated the tensions. Ahmed, last year’s winner of Nobel Peace Prize and Ethiopia’s youngest leader, commenced his aggressive operation after alleging TPLF to have attacked a military camp. 

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African Union (AU), who were appointed to mediate the conflict have not been allowed to visit the war-hit region by Ethiopian government. The envoy was appointed by AU President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, including in envoy former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. The former presidents of envoy will only meet Abiy Ahmed and not visit the region, said senior advisor to the Ethiopian PM. 

Explaining the reason of not allowing the envoy to visit the war-torn region, the government official said, “Tigray is currently under military operation. We believe that the military operation will come to an end soon. If this disgruntled TPLF wants to bring an end to the current conflict all they need to do is peacefully surrender and for that nobody needs to go to Tigray or Mekelle to make that clear to them.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged to spare Ethiopian civilians who are inhabiting the Tigray capital city of Mekelle. The rising humanitarian crisis is leading to massive influx of refuges from Ethiopia to Sudan. UN fear that this will force Sudan to edge of the cliff as it is already supporting millions of displaced from other African nations.   

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