Tigray conflict

The Tigray conflict is an ongoing armed conflict that began in November 2020 in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, between the Tigray Region special forces (led by Tigray People's Liberation Front) and the Ethiopian National Defense Force, in alliance with the Amhara Region special forces.[9] Rocket attacks have spilled over into the neighboring Amhara Region and the neighboring country of Eritrea.

Tigray conflict
Part of conflicts in the Horn of Africa
Tigray in Ethiopia.svg
Location of Tigray Region in Ethiopia
(For a more detailed map, see here.)
Date4 November 2020 – ongoing
(2 weeks and 6 days)
Location
Status Ongoing
Belligerents
 Ethiopia

 Eritrea (alleged)
TPLF
Commanders and leaders

Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed
(Prime Minister of Ethiopia)
Ethiopia Birhanu Jula
(ENDF Chief of Staff)
Ethiopia Kenea Yadeta
(Minister of Defence)
Tiruneh Temesgen
(Chief Administrator of Amhara Region, early November 2020)
Agegnehu Teshager
(Chief Administrator of Amhara Region, as of late November 2020)
Alleged:

Eritrea Isayas Afeworki
(President of Eritrea)
Eritrea Filipos Woldeyohannes
(Chief of the Defence Staff)
Debretsion Gebremichael
  • President of Tigray Region
  • Chairman of TPLF

Getachew Reda
(TPLF Spokesperson)[1]
Units involved
Ethiopia Ethiopian National Defense Force

Ethiopia Ethiopian Federal Police

Amhara Region Police Force


Alleged or on Standby:

Eritrea Eritrean Defence Forces
(allegedly)

TPLF Rebel Militias[3][4]

[5] [6]
Casualties and losses
Unknown 550 killed (government claim)[7]
500 civilians killed[8]

The conflict stemmed from the attempt of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to distance the country's politics from ethnic federalism, a power-sharing system based on ethnicity that gives regional control to individual ethnic groups that had been marginalized before, yet one that had been advantageous to the Tigray minority on the federal level. By merging the ethnic and region-based parties of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, which had governed Ethiopia for 30 years, into a nationwide Prosperity Party, Abiy threatened the power of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), a military and politically powerful entity inside Ethiopia, representing, by ethnicity, about 6% of the population. The TPLF refused to join the new party, creating tensions between the two, and alleged that Abiy Ahmed was an illegitimate ruler because he rescheduled the general elections that were to be held on 29 August 2020 to an undetermined date in 2021, on account of COVID-19. The TPLF went ahead with regional elections in Tigray in September 2020 — in defiance of the federal government, which deemed the election illegal.[10]

The immediate cause of the conflict was an alleged attack on 4 November 2020 by the organized Tigray forces on the headquarters of the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), the defense wing of the Government of Ethiopia.

BackgroundEdit

Historical/politicalEdit

Following the end of the Ethiopian Civil War in 1991, Ethiopia became a dominant-party state under the rule of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of ethnicity-based parties whose founding, and most influential, member was the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), whose chairperson was Meles Zenawi, FDRE Prime Minister until his death in 2012. Hailemariam Dessalegn, an ethnic Wolayta from the Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM), became premier.[11][12]

The TPLF used to be part of the Ethiopian governing coalition until its 2019 refusal to merge into the Prosperity Party.[13] Tensions between the government and the TPLF escalated in the months before the Tigray military intervention.[13] Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is of Oromo-Amhara descent, accused the TPLF Party Members in the Tigray Regional Government of undermining his authority.[13] By contrast, the Tigray authorities saw the refusal to recognise the September 2020 election for the Tigray parliament (which, along with all elections in Ethiopia, had been delayed by the federal government and elections board until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ethiopia) as the reason for the outbreak of the conflict.[13] Abiy Ahmed's government considered the September Tigray election to be illegal.[14] The warming of relations between Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, who is poorly regarded in Tigray, was also considered to have fuelled the tension.[13]

The day prior to the TPLF's alleged attack on a military camp, the federal parliament of Ethiopia had suggested designating the TPLF as a terrorist organization.[13] As tension continued to grow, a general appointed by Ahmed was prevented by the Tigrayan government from taking on his military post.[15]

Online hate speechEdit

During 2019–2020, posts on Facebook dominated the Internet in Ethiopia and played a major role in encouraging ethnic violence.[16] An October 2019 Facebook post led to the deaths of 70 people in Ethiopia.[17] In mid-2020, ethnic tensions in Ethiopia were amplified by online hate speech that followed the 29 June assassination of Hachalu Hundessa. The Hachalu Hundessa riots, in which mobs "lynched, beheaded, and dismembered their victims", took place with "almost-instant and widespread sharing of hate speech and incitement to violence on Facebook, which whipped up people's anger", according to David Gilbert writing in Vice. People "call[ed] for genocide and attacks against specific religious or ethnic groups" and "openly post[ed] photographs of burned-out cars, buildings, schools and houses", according to Network Against Hate Speech, an Ethiopian citizens' group. Berhan Taye of Access Now stated that in Ethiopia, offline violence quickly leads to online "calls for ethnic attacks, discrimination, and destruction of property [that] goes viral".[16]

Course of the conflictEdit

On 4 November 2020, Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) soldiers came over conflict during a Tigrayan attack on an Ethiopian base in Mekelle.[18] In retaliation, an Ethiopian offensive was launched which was accompanied by a declaration of a state of emergency and a shutdown of government services in the region.[19][20] During the subsequent days, skirmishes continued and the Ethiopian parliament established an interim government for Tigray.[21] Ethiopian offensives in the north were accompanied with airstrikes and several towns and cities were retaken.[22] On 14 November 2020, Tigrayan forces launched rockets at the Eritrean capital of Asmara with the intent to drag other countries into the conflict, but the missiles missed.[23] By the 18 November, the prime minister of Ethiopia claimed that they had captured the cities of Shire and Axum with battles going on around Mekelle with Ethiopian forces claiming to have taken some land south of the city.[24][25][26] On the 23 November, the government issued an ultimatum giving the rebels 72 hours to surrender.[27]

TimelineEdit

4 NovemberEdit

On the morning of 4 November 2020, Tigray regional security forces, loyal to the ruling Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) launched a surprise attack on the headquarters of the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) in Mekelle, the capital city of the Tigray region.[28] A senior member of the TPLF central committee, Sekoutoure Getachew, confirmed that a "pre-emptive strike" had been carried out in "self-defence".[29] During the attack, several people were said to have been killed, including destroyed properties, while others sustained injuries, and according to the Ethiopian government, the base was looted of light and heavy weapons.[13]

Subsequently, Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, declared that a military offensive would be launched to restore the rule of law and central government authority.[9] A state of emergency in the region was declared for the 6 months following this attack. Electricity, telephone and internet services in Tigray were shut down by the Federal authorities, though claims were made that the TPLF itself had shut them down. The Tigray Regional Administration threatened to retaliate to any form of attack, as they prohibited all aspects of transportation, including flights.[13][30][15]

Following the shutdown of telephone and internet services in Tigray, Amnesty International urged the Ethiopian authorities to quickly restore communications so as to respect people's rights regarding freedom of expression.[31] The UN also urged an urgent de-escalation of the growing conflict in the region.[32]

5 NovemberEdit

On 5 November 2020, Debretsion Gebremichael, Chief Administrator of the Tigray Region, claimed that Tigrayan forces had seized most of the weapons at the Ethiopian Military's Northern Command headquarters.[33] Debretsion also stated that the Northern Command had defected to the Tigrayan side, though this claim was denounced by the Ethiopian government as "false information", and that the Ethiopian Air Force was bombing areas near Mekelle, the capital of Tigray.[34][9]

6 NovemberEdit

On 6 November 2020, Abiy disclosed that his administration had launched an airstrike against the forces of the fortified Tigray region in several locations.[35] According to Ahmed's announcement, rockets and other weapons were badly damaged, preventing Tigrayan Forces (TPLF) from carrying out a substantial response on civilians.[35] However, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accused the Tigray People's Liberation Front of "criminal hubris and intransigence", claiming they rejected the federal government's efforts at "mediation, reconciliation, dialogue". Moreover, Sudan closed its borders with Ethiopia and the United Nations called for immediate de-escalation of tensions and peaceful resolution to the conflict.[36]

7 NovemberEdit

On 7 November 2020, the Ethiopian parliament voted to endorse the creation of an interim government for the northern Tigray region, in order to avoid the outbreak of a civil war in the country, as the conflict intensified in the region. The Tigray government was declared to be illicit, during the emergency session held by the parliament.[37][38] The declaration was made by the House of Federation, one of the Ethiopian parliamentary chambers, in line with the law.[39] Separately, 10 city officials in the capital were detained, over allegations of terrorism, the mayor of Addis Ababa, Adanech Abebe, announced.[40]

8 NovemberEdit

On 8 November 2020, as the Ethiopian military's offensive in the northern Tigray region entered its fifth day, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the replacement of several high-ranking officials within his government. Abiy's head of intelligence, army chief and foreign minister were replaced, as the military resumed new rounds of airstrikes.[41][42] Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen filled the position of foreign minister, while deputy army chief Birhanu Jula was promoted to army chief of staff. The Former regional leader of Amhara, Temesgen Tiruneh was appointed as the new head of intelligence.[43][40] Ahmed did not reveal his rationale behind making the changes to his administration's military and intelligence office.[44]

9 NovemberEdit

On 9 November 2020, the leadership of the Tigray Region claimed that more than 10 airstrikes had been carried out against them by Ethiopian federal government.[45] Hundreds of people were believed to have died in the conflict, according to government sources.[46] At the same time, the Ethiopian army was reported to have lost hundreds of its personnel in the original battle in Dansha.[47] That night, up to 500 civilians were alleged to have been killed in a massacre in the town of Mai Kadra. Amnesty International showed evidence suggested that several people died as a result of being assaulted with machetes and knives.[48][49]

10 NovemberEdit

On 10 November Ethiopian Defense Forces seized parts of Tigray, including Humera Airport. Several Tigrayan troops were said to have surrendered to the Ethiopian military during the takeover of the airport.[50] Tigray Region President Debretsion Gebremichael reported that the Eritrean Army had launched attacks on the northern border, which was labeled as "false information" by Major General Mohammed Tessema. At least 2,500 Ethiopians had reportedly fled from northern Tigray to neighboring Sudan. According to Alsir Khaled, the head of Sudan's refugee agency in eastern Kassala town, many Ethiopian soldiers were among the refugees who fled to Sudan.[50][51]

11 NovemberEdit

Refugees fleeing to Sudan increased significantly on 11 November 2020, with about 10,000 refugees having crossed the border since hostilities started. No further news of any military advances from either side was reported on Wednesday.[52]

12 NovemberEdit

Amnesty International reported massacres taking place in the Tigray Region. Amnesty's report could not definitively identify the perpetrators of the massacres, but witnesses blamed the Tigray People's Liberation Front for the "horrific tragedy" taking place as airstrikes continued to hit the region after Prime Minister Ahmed blamed the political group of committing war crimes.[53] A group of investigators sent by Ethiopia's Human Rights Commission were expected to visit Tigray's Mai Kadra city, to investigate reported mass killings.[54]

13 NovemberEdit

On 13 November, the Ethiopian Parliament appointed the Minister of Education Mulu Nega to replace Debretsion Gebremichael as the president of the Tigray Region.[55][56]

Pro-TPLF media circulated a claim by Debretsion that the Ethiopian government had bombed the Tekeze Dam, cutting off power to the region. This was denied by the government, which said that the surge from the reservoir would have been catastrophic and immediately noticeable.[57][58]

The UN refugee agency stated that the number of Ethiopians fleeing into Sudan had reached more than 14,500.[59]

14 NovemberEdit

UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned the Tigray conflict could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa.[60] Overnight, rocket attacks were reported in Gondar Airport, which was slightly damaged, and Bahir Dar Airports, with the TPLF claiming responsibility. Getachew Reda, the TPLF's spokesman, claimed that the rebel government would soon "conduct missile attacks to foil military movements in Massawa and Asmara".[61] The federal government claimed that the attacks were "indicative of TPLF’s last resort attempts to maintain control". Also, the government added that the attack on Bahir Dar airport failed, as the target was missed.[62][63]

Later in the day, there were reports of missile strikes in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, with the Ministry of Information and Asmara International Airport being hit, and reports of a blackout, with some people fleeing the city.[64]

15 NovemberEdit

The following day, Debretsion confirmed that the TPLF had bombed Asmara Airport and that his forces had been fighting Eritrean forces "on several fronts" over the previous few days.[65] It was reported that the number of refugees who had fled from Tigray to Sudan had reached 25,000.[66]

16 NovemberEdit

The Ethiopian Government stated that Ethiopian forces had taken the town of Alamata on the southeastern tip of Tigray Region. The Government spokesman said that the TPLF forces had fled, taking with them 10,000 prisoners. It was not immediately clear who these prisoners were.[67] Government forces were also said to be heading towards Humera to the west of the Tigray Region and on the border with both Sudan and Eritrea.[68]

17 NovemberEdit

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed posted on social media that Ethiopian armed forces were about to launch a "final and crucial" offensive after a "three-day deadline" for the Tigray authorities to surrender had expired. Abiy also confirmed airstrikes in the region but said that they were "surgical" and did not target civilians.[69]

18 NovemberEdit

The Prime Minister was reported as saying that the Ethiopian Army had captured the cities of Shire and Axum and was advancing on Mekelle. The government reported that Tigray's forces were destroying bridges near the city in order to slow the advance. Tigray's leader confirmed his soldiers had lost territory but said it was a temporary setback and denied destroying the bridges. The leaders of Tigray also maintained that they would never surrender to the Ethiopian government.[70][71][72]

The Ethiopian federal police disclosed that arrest warrants had been issued for 76 army officers, on the allegation of treason. The officers were accused of conspiring with the leaders of the Tigray region.[73][74] According to the Ethiopian Federal Police Commission, the officers were associated with the attack that was carried out on November 4, by forces of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, on the Ethiopian army's Northern Command.[75]

19 NovemberEdit

Federal troops seized the town of Shire Inda Selassie from the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) as government forces advanced on the Tigray Region's capital Mekelle. There were conflicting reports of the status of Axum, with both sides claiming to control the historic town,[76] while thousands more people fled into Sudan from the Tigray Region, according to international aid workers.[77]

The Ethiopian army chief of staff, General Berhanu Jula, alleged that the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is ethnic-Tigray and a member of the TPLF, had attempted to obtain arms for the TPLF. General Birhanu Jula described the Director-General as a criminal, and called for his removal, although he did not provide any evidence to back his allegations.[78][79] Dr Tedros went on Twitter to deny these allegations. He added that he had not chosen any side and is only supporting peace.[80][81]

20 NovemberEdit

Mekelle University officials said that an airstrike had inflicted significant damage to the university in the capital of Tigray.[82] The Ethiopian government claimed that its forces had captured the town of Adwa from the TPLF.[83]

Amhara Region officials reported that the TPLF had launched a rocket attack on the capital, Bahir Dar, but that it caused no damage. The two missiles reportedly caused large explosions and one of them landed near an airport.[84]

The UN announced that it was making plans for the possibility that up to 200,000 refugees could flee to neighboring Sudan. The UN also called for the opening of humanitarian corridors, without specifying where they should be located.[83]

21 NovemberEdit

Ethiopian forces made an assault on the city of Adigrat, with the Ethiopian government claiming it had captured the town. The TPLF only announced that there had been a heavy bombardment in which nine civilians were killed.[85][86][87]

22 NovemberEdit

The Ethiopian government announced that town of Idaga Hamos had been captured by Ethiopian forces, while Debretsion Gebremichael said that TPLF troops had stalled the Ethiopian forces on the southern front.[88][89]

A military spokesperson for Ethiopia, Col Dejene Tsegaye, announced that Mekelle would be encircled and shelled. He told Tigray civilians to flee the city because "there will be no mercy".[90]

23 NovemberEdit

Abiy Ahmed announced that Tigray forces had 72 hours to surrender but the TPLF vowed to keep on fighting.[91] The state-affiliated media also accused the TPLF of destroying the Axum Airport. In Amhara Region, residents said that a rocket strike had occurred on Bahir Dar during dawn.[92]

ReactionsEdit

NationalEdit

  • The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) condemned the "decision of President Mustafe to portray Somalis in Ethiopia as supporters of the war against Tigray".[93]
  • On November 12, 2020, the TPLF chairman Debretsion Gebremichael denied allegations that the TPLF had surrendered, stating that "we are still holding. These people cannot defeat us. We cannot be beaten."[94]

InternationalEdit

  • The United Nations (UN) warned of the emergence of a major humanitarian crisis, should a full-scale conflict arise.[40]
  • The African Union (AU) appealed for cessation of hostilities and protection of civilians.[95]
  • Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne called on all parties to show restraint. Champagne also called for a peaceful solution and protection of civilians.[96]
  • British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had spoken with Abiy and urged "de-escalation of the Tigray conflict" and further stated that "civilians and humanitarian access must be protected".[97]
  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged de-escalation of the conflict and immediate action to restore peace, and emphasized the importance of protecting civilians.[98] U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's foreign policy adviser Antony Blinken expressed deep concern over the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, ethnic violence and threats to peace and security in the area. He called on the TPLF to protect civilians and take steps to end the conflict.[99]
  • Worldwide, humanitarian organisations and the scientific community asked rapidly for ceasefire and humanitarian aid to the people of Tigray.[100][101]
  • The European Commission said it was mobilizing an initial €4 million in emergency aid, in order to assist displaced Ethiopian refugees fleeing to Sudan. [102]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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