Ethiopia attempts to mobilise former Tigray dissidents

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, determined to use every available force in an attempt to crush the Tigrayan resistance, has reportedly turned to former Tigrayan fighters who were trained and armed by the Eritrean government.

These fighters belonged to the Tigray People’s Democratic Movement [TPDM] – known as Demhit in Tigrigna.

Former members of the TPDM have been instructed to assemble in Mekele. Transport has reportedly been sent to collect them from as far as Humera on the Sudanese border.

They are apparently being promised cash and positions in the Prime Minister’s party – the Prosperity Party.

When the Tigray war broke out in November 2020 many members of the Tigray opposition, including former TPDM members, joined the Tigray Defence Force to resist the attack on their homeland.

Those members of the TPDM who did not join the resistance are now being recruited by the government, but some have spoken out, saying they don’t believe this is a genuine offer from the prime minister.

Members of TPDM returned to Tigray after Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018 and a the peace deal between Eritrea and Ethiopia was signed.

While in Eritrea the TPDM were reportedly used by President Isaias to provide security in and around Asmara.

In September 2015 the Sudan Tribune reported that General Mola Asgedom, who led TPDM, had crossed into the Sudan, arriving in the border town of Hamdait.

It was reported that Asgedom escaped to Sudan after armed clashes broke out with the Eritrean army on the outskirts of the Eritrean city of Omhajer. Asgedom and 683 of his supporters crossed into Sudan and handed over their weapons to the Sudanese authorities.

The clashes apparently arose after the arrival of other Ethiopia rebels – Gimbot 7 of Berhanu Nega – who were allegedly being given preferential treatment by the Eritrean government.

General Mola Asgedom subsequently crossed into Ethiopia and was interviewed about his experiences in Eritrea on Ethiopian television.


Below is a background article on the TPDM by Global Security.

Tigray People’s Democratic Movement

The Tigray People’s Democratic Movement [TPDM] remained the most significant Ethiopian opposition group being trained, financed and hosted inside Eritrea as of 2015. The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea. reported extensively on the continued support by Eritrea for TPDM in violation of paragraph 15 (b) of resolution 1907 (2009) (see S/2014/727 and S/2012/545).

TPDM, also known by its Tigrinya acronym “Demhit”, is an armed Ethiopian opposition group founded in 2001 by dissidents from the Ethiopian ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. TPDM says on its website that its aim is “to establish a popular democratic government of Ethiopia where the rights of nation and nationality are respected”. In 2014, the UN Monitoring Group found that TPDM was being trained on Harena, an island in the Red Sea off the eastern coast of Eritrea, as well as in smaller military training outposts close to the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Moreover, in 2014, the Group reported that TPDM had become the most important Ethiopian opposition group inside Eritrea, with a dual function as an Ethiopian armed opposition group and a protector of the current regime. Its fighters, who hail from the same ethnic group as the President, are seen to be personally loyal to him. The support of Eritrea for TPDM appears to be more sustained and organized than its support for other Ethiopian armed groups (see S/2014/727).

In its report of June 2015, the commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea noted the presence of TPDM in Eritrea and reported its role in round -ups against Eritrean citizens who had failed to report to their national military (A/HRC/29/CRP.1, para. 1213). The findings were echoed by Europe-based activists in contact with Eritreans inside Eritrea who told the UN Monitoring Group that TPDM foreign fighters were involved in sweeps to round up people for conscription as recently as February 2015.

The Government of Eritrea facilitated and supported a move to unite a disparate group of armed Ethiopian opposition groups ahead of the Ethiopian general election that was held on 24 May 2015. The Group also received reports that a conference bringing together a number of Ethiopian opposition groups was held in western Eritrea. During the meeting, the groups, which included TPDM, the Patriotic Front, Ginbot Sebat and Arbegnoch, agreed to unify politically and militarily. The level of success and internal cohesion of the newly formed group is unclear.

8 comments

  1. I can’t believe this. I thought Tigreans were beyond reproach in matters of nationalism. For me, you were the super nationalists we, the rest of Ethiopians, should learn from. Back, at the start of the war, I saw a joint communique of the opposition groups condemning the war on their people. I thought that was a closed case. Could this be a propaganda aimed to divide you?

    Any way let me tell my brothern TPDM’s and any other opposition group members a simple story.

    It was in Derg’s time.There was a war between Siyad Barre’s military and SNM fighters – a Somali opposition group assisted by the derg – some where at the ethio-somali border. There were many causalities and deaths. After the war stopped, an Ethiopian soldier went to his commander to report of what ensued. It is said that, when the soldier started enumerating how many died from this group and that his superior stopped him in mid-sentence and said ‘ just tell me the total dead as they are all of the same stock!

    History is full of similar incidents. You should learn from the past. Don’t let the above happen to you too. Being an opposition in power struggle is one thing. But what is happening to your people is totally of different category. It is the eradication of your race from the face of the earth and you can’t be party to it by any means!

    Obliterate this false hood by making your official stands public AASP.

    Don’t break the hearts of all the long marginalized Ethiopians who look unto you as the beacon of equality and the martyrs of federalism – the only way a unified Ethiopia can exist.

    A long marginalized Ethiopian

  2. how many TPDM fighters are we talking about? sounds like they are a small security/republican guard oriented militia force, not battle hardened fighters like TPLF.

    1. If they are few case closed. In every society there are more than few who chose the wrong way for God knows how many petty reasons. Tell them they will fail in this world as their stupid ancestors did and will go to hell in the after math!

      If not, I have stated my view at
      https://eritreahub.org/ethiopia-attempts-to-mobilise-former-tigray-dissidents
      under wadani1 comment.

      By the way, I am not a tigrean. I am from the long marginalized peoples of Ethiopia. It is my utmost desire to be part of a true democratic one state ethiopia; based on federalism principles – the only way all ethiopians could live in peace under one great Ethiopia.

      Tigre is our beacon for our noble goal. They are the martyers of our freedom. We wish and love thier success and we hate their enemy!

      1. By the way, there allots of people think Ethiopian with out Tigriay but Ethiopia have no History without Tigiray this the truth fact. However, even if you don’t want together with Tigrian’s they don’t have do it this way. In this moment ethiopian leader’s the are puppet of Isayas & a group of unmatured & unlearned people’s.

  3. The last comment is interesting but to add some idea regarding Ethiopia, we tigrians had fight from italy invation up to hailesilase and derg era and with Eritrea the 1991 ethio vs Eritrea war combined as ethiopian defense force know Ethiopian army amhara militia Eritrean army including UAE drone and somalia troops all are invading our region so still we are fighting what ever genocide is too much there but to tell you the truth we don’t want to be part of ethiopia. Every tigrian dicided Ethiopia is not our country. There fore, whether or not Ethiopia is unfied or practice federalism it’s non of tigrians business. This is not tplf war it’s tigrians war . I am sure we will win

  4. HISTORY TOLD US THAT THOUSANDS OF ETHIOPIANS WERE EMPLOYEES OF THE FORMER INVADING ITALIA TO ETHIOPIA. THE SAME THING WAS HAPPENED DURING THE 17 YEAR FIGHT AGAINST THE DERGUE REGIM. WHY NOT NOT NOW? TIGRIANS ARE WELL EXPPERINCED HOW TO FIGHT AGAINST OPPERESSORS INCLUDING FROM TIGRAY. BY THE WAY, MORE THAN 15% OF THE 109 DERGUE MEMBERS WERE TIGRIAN ORIGIONS.

  5. The Zendo militia of the Dergue time. Tigrians against Tigrians. That proved not to work at the time. The same, this time also.
    abiy ahmed seems to consider the demhit as mercenary soldiers. Not a good idea.

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