The Tigray War and Regional Implications – Full Report

Eritrea Focus has worked with Oslo Analytica to produce this report, which is the most comprehensive publication on the war in Tigray to date.

You can read the full report here. 

The Tigray War and Regional Implications – Volume 1

Below are the Introduction, Preface and Introductory Chapter. Over the next few days each chapter of the report will be published separately, so that they are more accessible than the full report.

Many thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to make this possible.

Martin


THE TIGRAY WAR & REGIONAL IMPLICATIONS

(VOLUME 1)

November 2020 to June 2021 

Forward by Habte Hagos, Chair of Eritrea Focus

The tragic, brutal and entirely predictable war in Tigray has brought immense suffering to the Tigrayan people, exacerbated the long suffering of the Eritrean people and caused misery to families across the Horn of Africa. This report is an attempt to capture the complexities of the war and the events that led up to it. It includes detailed explanations of everything from the origins of the conflict and the looted treasures of the region to the atrocities committed against the Tigrayan people in general and women in particular. The authors have attempted to provide a dispassionate analysis of these dramatic events, from a variety of perspectives. Eritrea Focus encourages this diversity of opinions, without endorsing all the views contained in the report.

Although the atrocities we have chronicled are despicable and horrific, they should not come as a surprise. Almost every single atrocity inflicted on innocent Tigrayan civilians have been, and are being, committed against the people of Eritrean. Their heroic fight for independence, and against Ethiopian oppression, culminated in the liberation of Asmara in 1991 and our de-jure independence in 1993. Yet our hard-won freedom has been illusory:  Eritrea has become a prison-state for its people.  President Isaias Afwerki’s regime is not constrained by a functioning constitution, a parliament or an effective judicial system. It is an absolute dictatorship by a leader who has never faced an election.

The 2020 Country Report on Human Rights Practices issued in March 2021 by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor on Eritrea graphically described the atrocities committed by the Eritrean regime against its people[1]:

“Significant human rights issues included: unlawful and arbitrary killings, forced disappearance; torture; and arbitrary detention, all committed by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; political prisoners; serious problems with judicial independence; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; the worst forms of restrictions on free expression and the press, including censorship and the existence of criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; severe restrictions on religious freedom; widespread restrictions on freedom of movement; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; restrictions on political participation; trafficking in persons; criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct; and the worst forms of child labor”.

These atrocities, and others, have been chronicled annually since 2014 by the UN Human Rights Commission.[2] However, the international community has failed to use the information in these reports to take action against the Eritrean government; instead preferring to look the other way. This has left Eritrea’s people to suffer in perpetuity, behind closed doors. These horrific abuses, first inflicted on the Eritrean people, are now being exported to Tigray. The inaction of the international community has made this possible.

This report was conceived on the day of the outbreak of the Tigray war in November 2020 and has been brought together over many months. It is being published as events are unfolding in the most dramatic fashion. The re-capture of Mekelle on Monday 28 June by Tigrayan forces, in what can only be described as a stunning victory for the Tigray Defence Forces, has transformed the situation. However, it has not been possible to capture all aspects of these transformative events in this version of the report. We aim to provide a fuller, updated version at a later date.

At this critical moment Eritrea Focus – as an Eritrean human rights organisation – calls for the following.

First:  The immediate, unconditional and verifiable withdrawal of all Eritrean forces from Tigray and the rest of Ethiopia. Unless the Eritrean troops withdraw immediately, the unilateral ceasefire proclaimed by the Ethiopian government on 28 June will leave large areas of Tigray under occupation. This cannot be the basis for peace and will prolong the war in which thousands of Eritrean youth continue to perish.

Second: In the light of the famine now gripping Tigray, with 900,000 identified as close to starvation, it is vital that all bottlenecks and roadblocks on Ethiopian roads, preventing humanitarian assistance reaching the needy, are removed. The ports of Eritrea and Djibouti must also be open to shipping so that aid from the international community can flow through them. The aid route through Sudan (used during the 1984-85 famine) also needs to be re-opened. These measures are both vital and urgent.

Third: Those responsible for the atrocities committed during the war – especially those who systematically abused women and sent underage Eritrean children to war – must be held to account. This requires an internationally recognised, independent investigation and reference to international courts, if local courts prove incapable of prosecuting those involved. No-one – including the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea – should be granted immunity.

Fourth: All works of art and means of production, as well as personal belonging, looted by the occupying powers, must be returned. An international commission should be established to take stock of what has been stolen, and assist with the restoration of damaged works. A precedent for this exists in the commission established at the end of the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war of 1998 – 2000 to assess the responsibility for goods looted and homes and factories damaged on both sides of the border.

Fifth: It is vital that the good personal relations between Tigrayan and Eritrean communities, so terribly damaged by the current war, should be mended. This will take careful work by community and religious leaders. It is important to remember that both Eritreans and Tigrayans have suffered ruthless repression at the hands of President Isaias who wants to create hatred and division between our two peoples.  We must not fall into this deceitful trap. There is immense goodwill between the Eritrean and Tigrayan diaspora. We should all work hard to build on this goodwill, and not allow events at home to divide or embitter us.

Sixth: As Eritreans we hold President Isaias Afwerki personally responsible for this war. His alliance with, and manipulation of, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed brought this unnecessary war upon our peoples and the region. President Isaias runs one of the world’s most dictatorial regimes and he, and the tiny circle around him, must not escape from this tragedy unscathed. They must be brought to justice and we call on the international community to ensure that this takes place.

And finally, a message to Eritrean diaspora. Every conflict has a silver lining and the tragic Tigray war has shown the coming together of the Eritreans abroad in a way that has never been seen before. There are ongoing concerted discussions about forming an Eritrean Government in Exile to replace the unelected regime in Asmara. Others are working proactively to establish a representative group that can advocate for the rights of the Eritrean people and to engage with the international community. This is the time and there is the momentum for us all to rise to the challenge. It is an opportunity we must grasp.

Dictators have a limited shelf life and President Isaias is no different. It is essential that we prepare in unison for a smooth transition to a peaceful and democratic Eritrea.

Preface by Prof. Kjetil Tronvoll, Director, Oslo Analytica

The war on Tigray is a political, social, economic and humanitarian disaster, instigated by unaccountable political leaders in Ethiopia and Eritrea. This report outlines the key elements of the crisis and its impact on the people of Tigray in particular, and Ethiopia and Eritrea in general. The report will serve as a useful tool for the international community to increase their understanding of the complexities of the war, its political background, and future implications.

Oslo Analytical has been engaged in policy research on the political developments in the Horn of Africa in general and in Ethiopia and Eritrea in particular for several years. Our key efforts have been concentrating on providing policy advice to international actors on the radical political changes occurring in Ethiopia, especially since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018. While praising the early reforms and diplomatic initiative towards Eritrea, we cautioned about the shift of policy directions in late 2018 and how it would impact stability and political trajectory of the country and undermine a genuine people-to-people peace process between the two countries. We have in particular addressed the so-called Ethiopian-Eritrean “peace process” and its political motivations and objectives, expressing a scepticism the genuine interest and the pursuit of peace by President Isaias Afwerki. Based on research in the Tigrayan-Eritrean borders, we unveiled a more sinister motive, which fed into our analysis of the new political dynamics.

Since the abolition of EPRDF and subsequent establishment of the Prosperity Party in December 2019, it became clear that political developments in Ethiopia would lead to an armed confrontation between the Federal government and the Tigray regional government unless conflict preventive measures were put in place. Oslo Analytica tried to mobilise the international community to undertake active conflict prevention diplomacy from early 2019, alas in vain.

Since the outbreak of war, we have been focusing on disseminating empirical based analysis on the war and its political and social impact in Tigray, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, with a three-fold objective: a) to support conflict prevention and mitigation; b) to alleviate the plight of the citizens of the Horn of Africa; and c) to end human rights violations and war crimes committed with impunity. We believe this report will greatly help in this endeavour.

Introduction: war, offensives and atrocities

By Martin Plaut[3] 

2.1 Overview

 The war in Tigray is now in its ninth month. This conflict, began as what the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed described as no more than a local “law enforcement operation” in November 2020. It soon escalated into a regional conflict involving Eritrean and Somali troops and Amhara special forces. The Tigrayans were rapidly driven from their capital, Mekelle and most of the region was soon in Ethiopian or Eritrean hands. Yet the Tigrayans fought on and in June 2021 transformed what had been a guerrilla war into a conventional conflict when they launched what they called “Operation Alula Aba Nega,” or simply “Operation Alula.”[4] In just ten days, from 18 June to 28 June 2021 the Tigrayans succeeded in sweeping all before them, until they marched back into their regional capital, Mekelle. They found that the banks had been looted by the Ethiopian military just before they arrived and so had the UN offices. The ‘interim government’ appointed by the Ethiopians had packed up and fled. These events were followed by an Ethiopian offer of a unilateral ceasefire, but the offer was not well received by the Tigrayans, who pointed out that Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara troops remained on their soil.[5] The United States responded by declaring that they would act if there were further atrocities, while re-iterating their call for Eritrean forces to leave and aid to be allowed to reach the needy without being held up at Ethiopian roadblocks.[6] The shallowness of the Ethiopian ceasefire offer was soon revealed when the Ethiopian military declared that it could re-enter Mekelle within weeks, if necessary.[7]

Until these dramatic events unfolded the conflict was characterised by the following:

  • Eritrean troops (despite initial denials by both governments) having direct involvement in the fighting since the start of the war in November 2020. The Ethiopian government then repeatedly stated that the Eritrean forces were about to leave[8] (in response to calls for such a withdrawal from the international community) but this had, to date, not taken place. Rather, their troops were forced to leave large sections of Tigray by the Tigray Defence Forces.
  • Somali troops were initially involved, as were regional Ethiopian militia, including the Amhara.
  • As the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres pointed out, the conflict left Tigray “on the brink of famine” and that it will only get worse unless “funding is increased and humanitarian access is improved.”[9] Mark Lowcock, the senior humanitarian emergency official at the UN, went further. He told a webinar on 10 June 2021 that 350,000 were already in a famine situation and that this figure was “higher than anywhere in the world.”[10] Towards the end of June 2021 the head of USAID, Samantha Powers, put the figure at 900,000.[11] But getting aid to those in need is being held up by the Ethiopian and Eritrean military. As Samantha Powers said: “critical aid is being blocked and prevented from saving lives.”[12]
  • The war has been characterised by extreme brutality against civilians. Thousands of women and girls have been sexually violated and raped, atrocities which appear to have been officially sanctioned. Civilians have been massacred and infrastructure, including historic and religious sites have been looted and destroyed. Religious leaders have been killed. Many thousands have been forced to flee to Sudan, while even larger numbers have been internally displaced in Tigray, or have sought sanctuary in other parts of Ethiopia.
  • Eritrean refugee camps in Tigray, under the protection of UNHCR and the Ethiopian government, were attacked. Refugees were abused and killed with some forcibly returned to Eritrea from where they had fled.
  • The fighting has spilled across Ethiopia’s frontiers, with clashes between Sudanese troops and Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara forces in a disputed border region – al-Fashaga.
  • There are further regional tensions. The UAE was reported to have deployed drones against Tigrayan forces to support the Ethiopian and Eritrean war effort. The Ethiopian dam on the Blue Nile has caused deep concern for both Egypt and Sudan, which have threatened to prevent it being filled. Ethiopian peacekeepers in Sudan and Somalia were withdrawn to fight in Tigray.
  • While this conflict has taken place inside Tigray there has been unrest in the rest of Ethiopia. Protests and fighting have taken place in a number of regions. The Prime Minister is facing extensive resistance from a number of ethnic groups, including the Amhara, Oromo, Gumuz, Qemant and Somali.

Instability and conflict in Ethiopia

Figure 1 Source: Ethiopia Peace Observatory, 18 June 21, https://epo.acleddata.com/

The aim of this report is to bring together information about the Tigray war from different perspectives, drawing on the expertise of a number of scholars. They take a variety of views on events. This is inevitable, since the conflict is still ongoing and it is far too early to provide a definitive account of what has taken place. This report is an honest attempt to provide a balanced narrative, with references where these can be provided. Since some of the information is provided by writers who have been directly involved in the region, some of the authors have asked not to be identified. We trust the reader with understand the parameters within which the report is written.

The international community has been involved with the crisis from the start. The African Union and the United Nations, together with the European Union and individual states, have attempted to halt the Tigray war, without success. The best the international interventions have achieved is a statement from Prime Minister Abiy that Eritrean troops will leave Tigray, at an unspecified date, and an agreement to hold an investigation into human rights abuses. As the prime minister said in a Tweet: “In our March 26, 2021 discussions with President Isaias Afwerki during my visit to Asmara, the government of Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its forces out of the Ethiopian border.”[13] Three months later this had yet to take place. There has been an increased access to some areas of Tigray for humanitarian agencies, but this is still limited.[14] The EU has withdrawn some foreign aid and the United States has begun to impose sanctions against the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments, but the full panoply of measures have yet to be deployed by the West to persuade Ethiopia to open negotiations with the Tigrayans.

The Tigrayans were driven from the towns and moved their forces into the hills and mountains soon after the war commenced. The fighting continued, destabilising Ethiopia and the wider region.[15] Eritrean men, women and even children, have been forcibly conscripted and thrown into the conflict, where many are paying with their lives. The war is a cruel drain on the resources and population of Ethiopia and its neighbours. It is also – in the view of Jeffrey Feltman – a potential threat to the entire region. Feltman, a seasoned former senior U.S. and United Nations diplomat (who was subsequently appointed President Biden’s special envoy to the Horn), told Foreign Policy in April 2021 that the conflict had the potential to spiral into a full-fledged regional crisis, citing a comparison to the war in Syria.[16]

“Look at what the collapse of Syria and the chaos of civil war has meant,” said Feltman, citing the refugee crisis and its impact on Europe, as well as the rise of terrorist groups in the power vacuum from the collapse of a country that had a pre-war population of around 22 million people. “Ethiopia has 110 million people,” he said. “If the tensions in Ethiopia would result in a widespread civil conflict that goes beyond Tigray, Syria will look like child’s play by comparison.” 

2.2 Early attempts to halt the fighting

The outbreak of fighting in Tigray on the night of the 3/4 November 2020 followed months, if not years, of escalating tension. The Ethiopian and Eritrean leaders, Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki had planned some form of offensive against the Tigrayans, in association with the Somali leader, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as ‘Farmaajo’, since 2018.[17] The Tigrayan leadership responded by blocking the removal of heavy weapons from their border with Eritrea and refusing to accept the replacement of Ethiopian commanders in their region.[18] The conflict that erupted on 3/4 November brought a flurry of international statements of concern. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, “expressed his alarm over the reported armed clashes in the Tigray region” and “called for immediate measures to de-escalate tensions and ensure a peaceful resolution to the dispute.”[19]  The very next day an influential group of American senior diplomats issued a warning about the regional implications of the conflict.[20] Signed by two former Assistant Secretaries of State for African Affairs (Chester Crocker and Jonnie Carson, plus former US ambassadors, it carried real weight and is worth quoting in some detail.

They warned that war could lead to a:

“fragmentation of Ethiopia” which in itself “would be the largest state collapse in modern history. Ethiopia is five times the size of pre-war Syria by population, and its breakdown would lead to mass interethnic and interreligious conflict; a dangerous vulnerability to exploitation by extremists; an acceleration of illicit trafficking, including of arms; and a humanitarian and security crisis at the crossroads of Africa and the Middle East on a scale that would overshadow any existing conflict in the region, including Yemen. As Ethiopia is currently the leading Troop Contributing Country to the United Nations and the African Union peacekeeping missions in Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia, its collapse would also significantly impact the efforts by both to mitigate and resolve others conflicts in the Horn of Africa.”

The potential threat to stability of the Horn was underlined by the UN Secretary General who stressed in a further statement that: “The stability of Ethiopia is important for the entire Horn of Africa region.”[21] The European Union’s most senior Foreign Affairs official, Joseph Borrell, made similar remarks when he expressed concern at the risk to the integrity of Ethiopia and called for a de-escalation of the crisis.[22] None of the statements appear to have had any impact on the conflict itself, which continued to escalate.

Rather, Mr Borrell’s views, coming on top of the comments by the UN, apparently infuriated Prime Minister Abiy. In an official Tweet on 9 November 2020, he declared that: “Concerns that Ethiopia will descend into chaos are unfounded & a result of not understanding our context deeply. Our rule of law enforcement operation, as a sovereign state with the capacity to manage its own internal affairs, will wrap up soon by ending the prevailing impunity.”[23] The suggestion that the conflict would “wrapped up soon” proved wildly inaccurate. By April 2021, Abiy had to admit that far from the war being over, his forces were bogged down in ‘difficult and tiresome’ fighting on eight fronts.[24]

As the war erupted the African Union attempted to intervene to end the conflict which was – after all – erupting just north of its headquarters in Addis Ababa. The chairman of the African Union Commission issued a statement appealing for “the immediate cessation of hostilities and calls on parties to respect human rights and ensure the protection of civilians,” while also urging talks.[25] Towards the end of November the African Union chairman, South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, held talks with the Ethiopian President, Sahle-Work Zewde.[26] Together they hammered out a mediation plan. This involved the appointment of what were termed three African “distinguished Statespersons”: Joaquim Chissano, former President of the Republic of Mozambique; Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, former President of the Republic of Liberia; and Kgalema Motlanthe, former President of the Republic of South Africa. They were asked to act as Special Envoys of the African Union to help to mediate between “the parties to conflict” in Ethiopia.[27]

Teferi Melesse Desta, the Ethiopian ambassador to Britain, told the BBC’s World Tonight on 20 November that his country had accepted the appointment of the three envoys to mediate in the crisis.[28] “The government of Ethiopia has accepted the initiative of the African Union chairperson, the President of South Africa, to appoint three special envoys to find a solution to the current situation in Ethiopia” Ambassador Teferi said. The international community moved swiftly to try to support the initiative. The UN Secretary General welcomed the appointment of the African Union envoys. A UN spokesman said that Mr Guterres “commends the Chairperson of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, for this initiative and extends the full support of the United Nations. He also expresses his appreciation to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia for facilitating this initiative for peace.”[29]

Unfortunately, this went against the stated policy of Prime Minister Abiy who had tweeted on 11 November that there would be no dialogue “until our efforts to ascertain [sic] the rule of law are achieved”.[30] Clearly furious, the Prime Minister said he would meet the former African presidents, but had no interest in allowing them to mediate in the conflict, or travel to Tigray.[31] “We don’t negotiate with criminals. We bring them to justice, not to the negotiating table,” the Prime Minister declared.[32] Although Prime Minister Abiy met the three former presidents for stiff, but entirely pointless discussions on 27th November, the African Union mediation mission failed.[33] The last, best, chance for peace had been ended by Ethiopian government intransigence.

2.3 The war escalates

Air attacks began within days of the first clashes. Prime Minister Abiy announced that air strikes had taken place against what he described as military targets on 7th November.[34] At the same time the internet and telecommunications were cut. The army high command was re-structured to purge it of Tigrayan officers and anyone thought to be “unsound.”[35] Over the following weeks Tigrayans civilians were also ethnically targeted and forced out of their jobs, from airline staff with Ethiopian Airlines to taxi drivers in Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian parliament voted to replace Tigray’s elected government with an administration it would select.[36] The Ethiopian government subsequently officially declared the Tigray People’s Liberation Front a ‘terrorist organisation.’[37]

The Eritrean government joined the offensive against Tigray. This had apparently been in preparation for some time, in collaboration with Ethiopia. It was reported that Ethiopian troops had, over weeks, been flown into Asmara in the dead of night and then transported up to the front lines. Prime Minister Abiy told the Ethiopian parliament that Ethiopian troops who refused to join the Tigrayans after 4 October, had fled into Eritrea, where they were fed, clothed and re-armed.[38] These Ethiopian soldiers then participated in Eritrea’s offensive against Tigray. On 10 November Reuters reported that the Tigray leader, Debretsion Gebremichael, accused Eritrea of crossing the border. “Since yesterday, the army of (Eritrean leader) Isaias (Afwerki) have crossed the country’s boundary and invaded,” he said. “They were attacking via Humera using heavy arms.”[39] At the time the statement was greeted with some scepticism; it soon proved to be true.

Two other forces were involved in the attack on Tigray: Amhara Regional Special Forces and associated militia, as well as Somali troops. This will be explored below.

Much of the initial fighting was concentrated along Ethiopia’s western border with Sudan, at the point where Eritrea and Ethiopia meet.[40] This was around the town of Humera which came under bombardment from Eritrean artillery from just over the border.[41] The aim was clear: to attack Tigrayan forces from both North and South and to drive a wedge between them and the Sudanese border. Sudan was a conduit for supplies for the Tigrayans during the 1984-85 famine and throughout their long war that ended with their seizure of power in Addis Ababa in 1991. Prime Minister Abiy and President Isaias, well aware of this fact, were determined to create a corridor along the Sudanese border, depriving the Tigrayans of potential support from Sudan, and efficiently cutting it off from the rest of the world.

The Prime minister made explicit his determination to prevent supplies entering Tigray from Sudan in an interview he gave on Fana television on 23 June 2021.[42] Prime Minister Abiy explained that – in his view – the Tigrayans were using the present famine for their own ends, just as they had in the past.

“Until 1984, TPLF didn’t have a single town and a single zone which it could claim as their stronghold. They had never conducted a decisive battle. However, when the famine struck in 1984/85 and there were calls for aid corridors through to Sudan to be opened. The organisations that wanted to see the fall of the Derge (the Ethiopian military government) entered the areas held by the TPLF. They brought with them strategic advice, ideas, finance, training and armaments. The same organisations are now putting forward the same ideas. Today they want to use the same tactics which they used 30 or 40 years ago. We will never allow this to happen.”

The Eritrean and Ethiopian forces attacking Humera were joined by Amhara militia, who were keen to regain lands they believed to have been taken from them by the Tigrayans under the 1995 Constitution. By March 2021 the Amhara had seized large areas of Tigray.[43] Tigrayans were driven out of the areas that had been captured, fleeing eastwards, leaving a large swathe of territory between most of the population in the centre of the region and Sudan.

Despite the prime minister’s repeated assurances in early and mid-November that the war would soon be over there were few signs of this taking place. Rather, there was a swift advance on multiple fronts by Ethiopian forces and their allies. The towns of Axum and Sire fell.[44] The government declared it was in the “final phase” of an offensive in northern Tigray, with the capture of the town of Wukro, predicting that they would “control Mekelle in a few days”.[45] On 28th November the attack on the Tigray capital, Mekelle, began with a heavy bombardment.[46] Within hours of the assault the Ethiopian army chief of staff, General Berhanu Jula, said the army had captured the city. “Our hero army is fully in control of Mekelle,” the general declared.[47] While the city had fallen, the Tigrayan administration had ordered their forces to withdraw before the attack. An eyewitness explained what took place.[48]

“After the bombing came the troops. The city was surrounded. The first we knew was that elders and priests called local meetings in district halls. They told the people that the TPLF had left confidential messages with them. The leadership explained that they were pulling out of Mekelle to prevent it from being destroyed in fighting. They left for the mountains to continue the struggle. I understand why they did this, but it was a terrible moment. I felt helpless. Vulnerable. Alone. Some people panicked and left the city.”

With the regional capital and most major cities in the hands of Prime Minister Abiy’s forces, he felt able to claim victory: federal troops controlled Mekelle, a major development in a three-week-old war which was – in his view – effectively over.[49] He claimed that Mekelle had fallen and that “not a single civilian was killed” during the operation.[50] “I am pleased to share that we have completed and ceased the military operations in the Tigray region,” the prime minister said in a Tweet.[51]

This version of events was challenged by the Tigrayan leader, Debretsion Gebremichael. On 26 November Reuters reported receiving a message from Debretsion in which he said that his forces were continuing to fight, with clashes taking place near Mekelle.[52] Perhaps to underline this message, the Tigrayans unleashed rocket attacks against the Eritrean capital, Asmara. As ever, this was not reported by official Eritrean government sources, but the US embassy put out an alert to its citizens in the country.[53] “At about 10:13pm on November 28 there were six explosions in Asmara. The Embassy again advises all U.S. Citizens in Eritrea to continue to exercise caution, remain in their homes (when not at work), conduct only essential travel, and to remain situationally aware of the ongoing conflict in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia.  US Citizens not in country should avoid travel to Eritrea.” This was not the first time the Tigrayans had used rocket attacks. The cities of Bahir Dar and Gondar in the Amhara region were attacked on 13 November.[54] The rocket attacks did not continue. Perhaps the Tigrayans ran out of long-range missiles; perhaps their rocket launchers were destroyed from the air by jets or drones. Whatever the reason, they do not appear to have played a central role in the war.

The Tigrayans had adopted the tactics they had used throughout their long war against the Ethiopia government that ended with the TPLF seizing Addis Ababa in 1991: they retreated into the hills and mountains. Ethiopia was – once more – beset by a guerrilla war, of an intensity previously witnessed when the authorities last fought the Tigrayans.

[1] Eritrea – United States Department of State

[2] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AFRICARegion/Pages/ERIndex.aspx

[3] Senior Research Fellow Kings’ College London and former Africa Editor, BBC World Service News

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Alula. This was named after the general who led Ethiopian forces in battles against Ethiopia’s enemies in the nineteenth century, and is considered the greatest military leader Tigray produced. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ras_Alula#Battle_of_Adwa

[5] https://apnews.com/article/ethiopia-tigray-cease-fire-2745f0941cafcfa8fbe4c9f945f0925d

[6] https://www.state.gov/ceasefire-in-ethiopias-tigray-region/

[7] https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ethiopia-says-many-soldiers-civilians-killed-tigray-conflict-2021-06-30/

[8] https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-ethiopia-conflict-idUSKBN2BR05O

[9] https://twitter.com/antonioguterres/status/1402139073427382279?s=20

[10] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/10/world/africa/ethiopia-famine-tigray.html?referringSource=articleShare

[11] https://twitter.com/PowerUSAID/status/1408479282784047109?s=20

[12] Ibid.

[13] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/3/26/ethiopia-says-eritrea-has-agreed-to-withdraw-forces-from-tigray

[14] https://www.unocha.org/story/daily-noon-briefing-highlights-afghanistan-ethiopia

[15] https://www.justsecurity.org/76993/with-deliberate-famine-threatening-millions-tigray-demands-greater-action-from-the-us/

[16] https://martinplaut.com/2021/04/27/u-s-africa-envoy-ethiopia-crisis-could-make-syria-look-like-childs-play/

[17] https://eritrea-focus.org/text-of-eritrea-ethiopia-and-somali-agreement/

What are the war aims of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia in Tigray?

[18] https://eritreahub.org/war-clouds-gather-in-northern-ethiopia-tensions-between-tigray-eritrea-and-addis-ababa

[19] https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2020-11-04/statement-attributable-the-spokesperson-for-the-secretary-general-%C2%A0the-situation-ethiopia%C2%A0%C2%A0

[20] https://www.usip.org/press/2020/11/statement-ethiopia-senior-study-group-peace-and-security-red-sea-arena

[21] https://au.news.yahoo.com/ethiopia-pm-rejects-call-halt-offensive-152007389–spt.html

[22] https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/88375/Ethiopia: Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell on the latest developments

[23] https://twitter.com/AbiyAhmedAli/status/1325724786547445760?s=20

[24] https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2021/04/04/Ethiopia-s-PM-Abiy-Ahmed-says-army-fighting-on-eight-fronts-including-Tigray

[25] https://au.int/en/pressreleases/20201109/statement-auc-chairperson-situation-ethiopia

[26] https://addisstandard.com/news-alert-au-chair-appoints-three-special-envoys-to-help-mediate-ongoing-conflict-in-ethiopia-create-conditions-for-inclusive-dialogue/

[27] https://addisstandard.com/news-alert-au-chair-appoints-three-special-envoys-to-help-mediate-ongoing-conflict-in-ethiopia-create-conditions-for-inclusive-dialogue/

[28] https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000phyd

[29] https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2020-11-20/statement-attributable-the-spokesperson-for-the-secretary-general-ethiopia 

[30] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-54900769

[31] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-11-21/african-union-to-send-envoys-to-mediate-ethiopian-conflict

[32] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-55023029

[33] https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-ethiopia-conflict/african-envoys-due-to-meet-ethiopian-pm-as-war-ultimatum-expires-idUKKBN2870U2

[34] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-54838282

[35] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-54864868

[36] https://news.sky.com/story/ethiopias-government-votes-to-remove-leaders-in-tigray-as-unrest-moves-towards-civil-war-12126223

[37] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/1/ethiopia-to-designate-tplf-olf-shene-as-terror-groups

[38] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-55295650

[39] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-conflict-eritrea-idUSKBN27Q1HT

[40] https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/end-of-ethiopia-conflict-coming-within-reach-says-pm/ar-BB1aRIPL

[41] https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/11/ethiopia-unlawful-shelling-tigray-urban-areas

[42] https://youtu.be/rmOMyRa72t8

[43] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-16/ethiopia-s-amhara-seize-disputed-territory-amid-tigray-conflict

[44] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54984056

[45] https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-ethiopia-conflict/african-envoys-due-to-meet-ethiopian-pm-as-war-ultimatum-expires-idUKKBN2870U2?edition-redirect=uk

[46] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-55111061

[47] https://www.facebook.com/654684251716987/posts/1033485603836848/

[48] https://eritreahub.org/gideys-story

[49] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-conflict/ethiopian-military-operation-in-tigray-is-complete-prime-minister-says-idUSKBN28809E

[50] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-56229256

[51] https://twitter.com/AbiyAhmedAli/status/1332740110039846914?s=20

[52] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-conflict/leader-of-ethiopias-tigrayan-forces-says-he-is-fighting-near-mekelle-idUSKBN28A0LD

[53] https://er.usembassy.gov/security-alert-u-s-embassy-asmara-eritrea-11-28-2020/

[54] https://www.dw.com/en/ethiopian-cities-hit-by-rockets-from-tigray-forces/a-55599105

 

 

2 comments

  1. One thing I would like to understand. If an ambassador is caught in a bald-faced lie, as many Ethiopian and probably Eritrean ambassadors have about Eritrean involvement in Tigray, why don’t the host countries revoke their credentials and send them home? Same thing in the UN. Cannot the GA vote to revoke credentials of an ambassador to the UN? This action would send a message far beyond “we have grave concern”.

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