An interview with Getachew Reda, deputy to Debretsion Gebremichael, and on the executive committee of the TPLF
Q: What is the current situation?
A: We’re at war; it’ s been 3 years since they’ve been working to subdue the people of Tigray.
Now it has turned into visible invasion. It’s all because forces in Addis Ababa and Asmara and others consider the people of Tigray are obstacle to their goals.
Currently tens of thousands of our citizens are at risk.
Tigray has become the centre of war after 30 years. We are in a situation where we’re doing everything we can, including paying the ultimate sacrifice for our dignity, our rights and our existence.
For our enemies, because they believe unless they subdue Tigray people as a whole and destroy the TPLF and other political entities representing Tigray, they won’t be able to do whatever they want.
For this reason, they are doing everything in their power to achieve their aims. They are persistently engaged in striving to destroy Tigray as a nation, even though they’re suffering huge losses.
Withdrawal from Mekelle
Q: Is the war really over as Abiy govt is claiming? Why did you withdraw from Mekelle?
A: They had wanted the war to end in three days. They have been giving three day notices repeatedly.
Tens of thousands of soldiers are being sacrificed just to satisfy the grudge of the two despots. That’s the kind of war that is being waged.
The war has indeed started, but it is far from the end the way they wants us to believe. They have waged total war to humiliate and destroy the people of Tigray.
Three years ago Isaias openly said the only way he could succeed was if he could put Ethiopia through a political “laundry” to cleanse all traces of the TPLF and Tigray’s political and economic legacy.
Abiy has been following Isaias’s agenda.
They won’t sleep till they destroy us and we won’t rest until we ensure our dignity and existence. They don’t care about human losses; during the battles that took place from Dansha (west) to Alamata (south), thousands of soldiers were being killed daily.
Prime Minister Abiy’s Progress Party has lost most of its military strength. They’ve reached a point when they are deploying ordinary guards. Some of the captives on the Raya front have been compound guards of Debre Zeit Air force.
Now the Eritrean army is engaged in almost all battles. Even if Abiy were to claim fulfilment of goal by entering Mekelle, Isaias and his followers will not stop until they see to it that Tigray is buried. They want to destroy the culture, dignity, development infrastructures completely and reverse all traces of progress that has been made by Tigray. They want to turn us to stone age. They’re destroying development institutions and taking away machineries. PFDJ army looted factories, removed even doors and windows of ordinary people. They cut and took away the crops of farmers and burned and chopped off what they couldn’t take. They Killed and harassed youth.
Ethiopian Federal Force generals were watching idly while Eritrean army was doing this. Almost all Eritrean Army, including republican guard, have been deployed in Tigray.
So what we aimed to do was to weaken their military strength as best we could and then go on a counter attack.
We couldn’t match their numbers. It took them several days more than they intended because they encountered severe resistance and losses on the way. Allowing them to turn Mekelle into a warzone was like giving a blank cheque to Abiy and Isaias who desired to destroy Tigray assets.
Dr. Debretsion held discussions with elders, business, community and influential members of the city, informing them of the enemy’s intention and our aim of withdrawing and conducting the resistance outside of the city. It was after this that the Tigray government decided to undertake a strategic withdrawal.
It doesn’t mean they won’t destroy Mekelle. It’s merely to deprive them of using the war as an additional excuse. It is to minimize the destruction as it would be difficult to blatantly engage in such act under the gaze of the international community.
This doesn’t mean we’ll depend on the international community to rescue us. Tigray’s survival depends of the people and government of Tigray and its armed forces. We had announced on Tigray TV’s last program (before we removed and relocated the station) our government’s decision to withdraw from Mekelle before we left.
But we were in a hurry and it was only aired a couple of times so only a few people may have seen it. We hadn’t announced it earlier because it was counterproductive to our army’s engagement and our people’s morale.
Abiy and Isaias want to shorten the war but can’t end it quickly because it won’t be over until the people of Tigray secure their dignity and collective existence.
The Eritrean invasion
Q: Tell us the extent of losses of the enemy and the victory of our army on battlefield. How do you see the aim and direction of our future struggle?
A: The heroism of our forces is amazing. The enemy is using human wave tactics. They’re continually deploying thousands of soldiers at a time and try to overwhelm our positions while they’re being massacred. It reached a point when our troops were too exhausted to keep shooting.
They deployed hundreds of tanks and significant numbers of those have been destroyed.
Tens of thousands of soldiers of the enemy were killed. Hospitals of Eritrea have been overwhelmed with injured and killed soldiers of both armies. This is a sign of our peoples and our army’s heroism.
Actions have and are being undertaken to guarantee sustained victory that ensures the survival and dignity of our people in near future.
The move to nullify the enemy’s intention to use the Northern Command army to destroy Tigray is the result of inexperienced youth heroes in their early twenties. Our army are doing amazing things with limited numbers. We have succeeded in inflicting severe damage on the enemy. But it doesn’t mean we’ve not incurred casualties.
Open invasion by Eritrea is taking place. All the commanders of the battles currently going on around Mekelle are Eritreans. The Eritreans call the Ethiopian army “the colonel’s kids” and mockingly say “the colonel’s kids couldn’t do it.
Both have suffered. But the ultimate aim is to subdue Tigray. Expansionists (Fano etc) are trying to install Amhara local administrations on Tigray territories as sub-regions of Amhara (Wolkayt, Mekoni, Alamata).
The 524 division of the Eritrea army has been given the exclusive job going around on trucks and looting – even taking windowpanes.
The war shall continue until the Abiy and Isaias commanders, who are determined to subdue and destroy Tigray, are completely defeated.
Q: What is the state of our resistance capacity and the support of our people?
A: Our capacity to defend (resist) ultimately depends on the support we get from our people. It should be clear that our preparation (though we did prepare) for the war has its limits. It is possible to imagine a scenario where we stop everything and turn all our people into soldiers. (But that wasn’t the sort of preparation that we did).
It is not impossible to conceive of a scenario where all Ethiopian soldiers will be deployed in Tigray. It wouldn’t hurt to prepare for such a scenario. But when the whole of Ethiopia and the whole of Eritrea including an army of bandits called Fano comes, it is obvious that the forces we prepared would face shortages.
We have strived to wage a people’s war and we succeeded in mobilizing the people for war. The people are actively participating, especially at resisting invasions of the Eritrean army. The issue can’t be left exclusively to Tigray Defence Forces. It can’t be solved by just supporting through provisions/food for our troops.
All villages should be turned into embers for the enemy. We should deploy more fighters.
They are aiming to humiliate Tigray and its people. Our youth, our militia should rise up and deploy to the battle in tens of thousands. In our defensive resistance we’re killing tens of thousands, but they’re being replaced with other tens of thousands merely as cannon fodders. Our army should be strengthened and the effort of the people to mobilize to battlefronts should be strengthened.
We should mobilize and strive to reverse the invasions of Isaias and their servants at Abiy Ahmed in a short time. It should be understood that unless the youth of Tigray fully participate, we can’t frustrate the aim of the enemy to destroy Tigray as a nation. In this respect, the efforts underway should be sustained and intensified.