Statement by Tigray President, Debretsion Gebremichael

“Statement by Debretsion Gebremichael (Dr), President of Government of Tigray”, TMH, 05/12/21

Honored people of Tigray, firstly I would like to tell you how proud and satisfied we are by you, an amazing people, who have shouldered all [this] and is rallying to bring to success your ‘Mekete’ [resistance]. Next, I will give a few information on a few issues regarding the situation we are in. But before that, I would like to put certain things [in perspective] about our army.

Our army, as an institution, the old and new generation together, is one that discerns its purpose, has full commitment and perseverance to destroy its enemies. I would like to tell you that it is such an amazing army that you have. It has gone past the enemy and its full capabilities, through difficult terrain; it has been tried by all – deserts, [very] cold, hot [temperatures]. [Yet] it is accomplishing miraculous feats both as an army [collectively] and individually as fighters. Our army has mobilized with elevated morale to destroy its enemies and is making history. I would like to tell you that what is expected from us all is to sustain our comprehensive support to this army until it destroys the enemy.

Recently explanations have been given regarding the decisions we made concerning our operations first by a statement [of the military command] and then by comrade Tadesse, the commander of the [Tigray] army. I would like to take these statements [as a basis] and try to provide clarifications on some issues.

The pull back

The main thing here is ‘why was this decision made?’. It is known what the decision is. It was decided that we should pull our forces back. Why? Why was this decision made when [our forces] were marching forward and were approaching Addis Ababa?

The decision, without having to go into details, is the outcome of an evaluation. We evaluated the overall situation, both ours as well as that of the enemy, and arrived at the decision on our own. ‘We have to turn back; we shouldn’t continue in the present [course]; we have to carry out additional tasks, additional adjustments’ – it was after we identified this that we arrived at the decision. This doesn’t mean it was a simple decision. It was a tough decision. What was anticipated was one thing, but what we decided was another thing. What was anticipated was when we were going to enter Addis Ababa. But what we decided was, ‘let’s wait; we should turn back; we have to make other adjustments; we have to solve other issues’. It was a tough decision but one which had to be made. We have to understand that it was a correct decision.

[The decision] wasn’t made because of diplomatic pressure or through discussions. We don’t make discussions which the people of Tigray are not aware of or diplomatic activities which the people of Tigray has not accepted. At least they have to know about it. There can never be deals or decisions which are made secretly or behind a closed door. We won’t go down that road. We had said in our preconditions for a ceasefire that if the other side wants peace they would have to make it clear [publicly]. That doesn’t mean we were not asked sideways [unofficially]. [They had said], ‘why don’t you meet secretly’. We won’t meet secretly. Therefore we should know that there won’t be discussions or decisions that are made secretly. What I am emphasizing again here is that the decision is our decision. It is a decision made for the sake of the interest of the people of Tigray. Not for the sake of diplomacy or something else, but for the sake of the interest of the people of Tigray. We know, however, that the enemy is doing a lot of drama with it. Everyone has been following how much [lies] they talked about it.

A military moment

Here one thing that is raised is, ‘why wasn’t it announced earlier’. This is military movement, so we can’t announce it beforehand. The day the quick statement of the military command was released, was the day the movement was made. We can’t announce, ‘we have decided [to pull back] before our army could at least make some repositioning. This is a military movement. We announced it after it did some repositioning. The statement was released on that very day. The claim that [it should have been announced] before the enemy started talking cannot be acceptable. We announced it at the time when we could make the announcement. The decision however cannot be divulged. It was announced when it was implemented. Therefore we have to know that it is a military movement. This was done because it creates problems, not to hide it from the people. We can’t hide it from the people. And it doesn’t mean we are going to hide it from the enemy or hide the diplomacy.

But pulling out was a must. Yet we can’t say, ‘we have started pulling out’ before we started it. The statement was released on the very day the pullback started – this I would like to assure you. On the very day, it started! We didn’t start [withdrawing] before that; it was on that day. We notified our people; and when our people know, it is obvious that others [the enemy] would know about it. The enemy started talking when it noticed our movement on that day. And it can talk. We were confronted with each other face to face. Hence, it is necessary to understand it as such. The statement was released on the day that it should be made.

Tough fighting

The main thing is not to avoid confusion; it is to understand it properly. Other than that [enemy propaganda] is not a problem. The enemy will always [try to] confuse. Let alone when we are making such a [territorial] change, it makes things up [out of thin air]. It attempts to confuse with complete fabrications. What else are we going to expect from the enemy? It is not surprising at all if the enemy that carried out all these invasions to wipe out the people of Tigray says ‘I entered through this; I chased them in this direction; I did this or that to them’. The main thing is it is necessary [for you] to understand the situation we are in. But the enemy intentionally deceives, both to inside and outside [audiences] to confuse and even to agitate. We should understand it in this way.

Generally, the stage we are in is a stage of heavy struggle. We are in a fierce war. We know what kind of dark times we were in during the first 8 months. We know the changes that resulted after we entered Mekelle. We have carried out major tasks afterward, for about 4 months [since]. The [fighting] after Dessie & Kombolcha was also tough. Capturing Dessie and Kombolcha was very tough; the fighting afterward, the one in North Shoa, was also tough.

This is a time of fierce struggle. We can’t just enter [defeat the enemy] easily. You can arrive at victory after many ups and downs and after paying great sacrifices. We shouldn’t trivialize it but [recognize its] toughness. It is war – a people’s war [after all]. We are facing many enemies. We have shifted areas [territories] after planning it, weighing out [the pros and cons], and making a decision on our own. But what if the enemy had pushed us back? Aren’t we facing the enemy? [it can happen]. The enemy will do everything not to be defeated. It has been doing like that [so far]. When it reached its grave, it will do everything possible not to enter its grave. This is what we are witnessing now. [It is making use] of not only what is within its possession but also that which it is not in possession of – even from abroad. It is bringing in [making use of foreign] support. Hence the war is a war of fierce struggle [effort]. It is not something we [ought to] see lightly. Our past experience also [shows us] this. We should also know that the enemy is doing its utmost. We should know that it is mobilizing [all] its capabilities. In this course, foreign intervention is also growing. This doesn’t mean foreign intervention will completely change the situation; it can’t. But it can exert pressure. Therefore [the enemy] is using everything not to die, not to get into its grave. It’s using everything that’s inside the country – be it manpower, money, or economy. We are also seeing [how it’s making use of] the media.

Especially, the expansionist leadership of the Amhara region; it is known what kind of message it is sending – [it calls for] exterminating the leadership of the people of Tigray. We are seeing this in their media outputs. [They put out] barbaric ideas and speeches a human being can’t utter. They themselves are expressing in words, not just in deeds, [about] exterminating the people of Tigray. Their hatred is extreme. They don’t withhold anything for tomorrow [they blurt out everything]. There is nothing they reserve for tomorrow. We are thus witnessing their extreme hatred.

So the [deadly] struggle was there but now since it has become a stage of [fighting] of elimination, we realize and understand that they are carrying out heavy struggle. We also have to fight fiercely and intensely. [We should struggle] not by trivializing or lightly but heavily and fiercely. We should say [realize], “as long as the enemy is destroyed; as long as the enemy is not buried, the struggle is going to be tough” and finish the struggle we have started. We have taken it near its peak [verge] and we are saying, “let us make limited adjustments”. Even if it [succeeds in] summoning some capability, it doesn’t mean it is a government that is going to last [for long]. It doesn’t mean it is an enemy that will last [for long]. It is an enemy that can fundamentally be destroyed. It is an enemy that must be fundamentally destroyed. But just because you say, “it can fundamentally be destroyed”, doesn’t mean it will get destroyed on its own or through light struggle. Thus we have to adequately understand [the necessity for the intensity of] effort.

Therefore, [we’ve made] evaluations and decisions that are by examining the situations summatively; we also know that there are many tasks that we would have to do based on these [decisions]. The enemy is getting stronger; we would also have to be strong and intensify our struggle. This is what I would like to state.

Our next moves

The other thing concerns our next moves. What we need to understand is that we have experiences from our past struggles. We also have experience from recent [struggle]. The struggle can’t be concluded in an easy way [not a walk in the park]. We never perceived it that way. Let us put [our fight] against the Derg; that is special. The struggle had taken 17 years. The situation now is very different. Many things flipped back in 8 months. We basically can’t compare [struggle against the Derg] with this because many things have changed. But we know the ups and downs we went through during the 17 years of struggle. Before the Derg was destroyed, we stayed for one year in Guna [and] North Shoa. One year! We made a lot of history in a year. We [liberated] Tigray within 8 months. There are some areas of Western Tigray which has not yet been liberated. Now we reached as far as North Shoa. But after seeing the situation, we said, ‘no! let us readjust’. At the time of TPLF-EPRDF, [the army] stayed in North Shoa for one year. From the direction of Ambo, we reached an area called Ginchi but Derg [army] pushed us back. We remained in the area for one year. That of Guna is [well] known; that of Debre Tabor is known. But did the Derg last [in power] like that? It can’t last. We destroyed it completely. That was during the unique times of the past– at the time of the armed struggle [against] the Derg. [But now] great things were done within a year in the whole of Tigray. The enemy also did many things. We also did many miraculous deeds.

Therefore, we know from our past experience that there can be push and pull [advance & retreat]. Now there isn’t a withdrawal of [our forces] in such level [as the Derg era]. But even in our recent ‘Mekete’ [resistance] struggle, there were [such retreats] witnessed in September. We had reached as far as Debre Tabor. When [the enemy force] came in from the direction of Gashina, we pulled back. We had reached Haiq but said, ‘let us pull back to Wuchale’. We went in the Direction of Debarik too, [yet] we said, ‘let us withdraw’. Even in the fighting we are now undertaking, we had advanced [forward] but returned back. Those who remember it know the emotions [of the public] then. This is expected. It is fighting. Since it employs all kinds of efforts so that it won’t perish and be buried completely, so let alone when we make [territorial] adjustments, it is even possible that it may push us [TDF] back. We have to see it in this way.

Even if you pull back, it doesn’t mean you won’t return and destroy your enemy. That is what our agenda is – the enemy has to be destroyed; there isn’t any other option. Therefore we have to understand the true meaning; in a realm of struggle, there are ups and downs; it is possible to face many problems – even pull back. So what is the alternative? To struggle! Let alone now when we are making adjustments because of our plan and recalibration while maintaining our full posture… In fact, we will see soon what kind of decision it is – that it is beneficial. As I have said, a beneficial decision was made on the basis of the interest of the people of Tigray.

The interest of the people of Tigray [lies] on its safety, its sustained existence, in holding criminals to account; in getting it to exercise its self-determination rights. Our initial objective wasn’t capturing territories; it still isn’t. That’s why! If [our objective] is capturing territories, it has different implications. But if it is securing the interests of the people of Tigray, it won’t be fulfilled by capturing Addis Ababa alone. That is part of securing [Tigray’s] interests; because the enemy has to be destroyed [for that to happen]. Therefore, in order to hit our enemies even more [thoroughly], especially there are [enemy forces] which we moved past to our left and right; the supply lines had also started to face trouble. We would have to recalibrate it. The persecution that is happening on Tigrayans has resurged anew starting from western Tigray. They are being chased away anew; they are being persecuted anew. The project of ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans that had long been set up as far as the midland has continued in an intensified manner. We have to take these things into consideration and we have to struggle with greater effort. We will continue summoning our effort to conclude the war, which is now our main focus until the enemy is destroyed or is forced to come to negotiations. We should continue it with greater effort. That’s the meaning of the readjustment; it has no other. It has to do with [inaudible] by taking into account the existing situation. [it is in order to] definitively destroy those bodies who are disturbing us from the left and right. Those who come at us through other means [will have to be destroyed] too.

The siege

We are currently under siege. We have not yet broken through the siege. We are in tough times. The people of Tigray has collectively been put under siege. All services have been cut; it has been condemned to die through starvation and sickness. We have not yet broken this [siege]. We have to completely break this [the siege]. So we will take actions that alleviate our problems. Finally, we will defeat our enemies. It is expected for us to intensive our resistance. We will accomplish full victory. We have to strengthen our solidarity [and] intensify our ‘Mekete’ [resistance] just like before until full victory is achieved. We have to bear whatever problems we are confronted with – whether they are old or new problems. We are still facing very difficult challenges. It doesn’t mean there is a tougher challenge than this. But even if however difficult a new challenge comes, we have to bear it and overcome it We have to bring our ‘Mekete’ [resistance] to the conclusion.

The outcome is clear. We are carrying out a just struggle. It is a just war. We have been massacred and persecuted. Even now [this has continued]. Instead of getting [new] services, the service that was being provided – as you know, they have destroyed [the hydroelectric generator] at Tekeze. The electricity [service] that was being [actively] provided was destroyed. When we were saying let [blocked] services be given … They are still continuing their agenda of exterminating the people of Tigray in an intensified way through various means. The bombing through drones and other planes has continued. The project of exterminating the people of Tigray has continued with greater effort. The solution to this is ‘Mekete’ [resistance] as we are doing now. Thus, the readjustment has no other meaning. It is to recalibrate ourselves and bring the Mekete to its conclusion.

“Statement by Debretsion Gebremichael (Dr), President of Government of Tigray”, TMH, 05/12/21

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