The international community, mainly the western countries and entities, played a negative role in derailing the opportunity for a peaceful resolution of this conflict by sympathizing with a terrorist group. It is now the right time to shift their approach.
Ethiopia has been and continues to be one of the key actors in efforts undertaken to realize peace and security at regional, continental and international levels. Since the establishment of the League of Nations and also later the United Nations, Ethiopia firmly advocated for strong collective security and rule-based and principled world order. To this end, it has been playing a pivotal role in the realization of global peace and security mainly in its active participation in peacekeeping missions since the 1960s. It contributed a huge number of peacekeepers under the auspices of the blue helmet United Nations to Korean Peninsula, Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Liberia, Sudan, and South Sudan. Currently, its troops are also actively participating in peacekeeping missions in Somalia under AMISOM, recently renamed ATMIS. This important partner of peace is, unfortunately, being challenged by a lack of peace and security occurring at its own home. The major threat to the peace and security of Ethiopia is currently posed by a clique named the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF).
Before deliberating the role of the international community, mainly that of western countries, in the Northern conflict and how they should positively contribute to the ongoing peace efforts, exhausting the facts on the genesis of the conflict and the courses since the eruption of the conflict is quite important.
The Genesis of the Conflict
The major threat posed against the peace and security of Ethiopia did not start to occur on November 04, 2020, when the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF). It rather goes back to the time that TPLF refused to respond to the public grievances across the country which later resulted in the March 2018 change of leadership within the ruling EPRDF that brought Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to the helm of leadership. Though TPLF persistently opposed the reform, it was forced to accept it due to it was defeated by the majority vote within the party, EPRDF.
Following the commencement of the reform process launched by Prime Minister Abiy, TPLF had left no stone unturned to sabotage the system from within and derail it mainly for fear of losing the comfort zone it had enjoyed when it controlled the ‘banks and tanks’ of the country. In the first few months, TPLF hoped to make the Prime Minister a puppet one, controlling key positions. Later on, when the Prime Minister started to reshuffle key positions replacing them with whom he believed fit and capable to implement the reform agenda, TPLF started to get desperate and went for its Plan B, which is creating chaos and overthrowing the reform leadership using its previously built intelligence networks and its experiences of conspiracy. TPLF went far up to committing an attempt to assassinate the Prime Minister on June 23, 2018, rally at Meskel Square as well as plotting a coup d’état by sending hundreds of military officers directly to the Palace, in the name of requesting salary increments.
TPLF also orchestrated lots of conflicts, and killings against civilians and officials as well as chaos across the country aiming to discredit the Government for lack of capability to rule. Later on, it rejected the merger of the EPRDF Coalition to Prosperity Party, withdrew its Parliamentarians, conducted an unconstitutional election in the Tigray region, refused to accept the newly appointed Commander of the Northern Command of the Army stationed in Tigray and rejected the legitimacy of the Federal Government, among others. Fast forward on, TPLF attacked the Northern Command of the Army on the night of November 04, 2020, culminating in the start of active conflict between the TPLF and the Federal Government of Ethiopia. On that unfaithful night, TPLF called top officials of the Northern Command of the Army for a dinner reception and after the event put them under arrest, attacked the army divisions stationed across Tigray, controlled the weapon depots, launched an offensive against Amhara region and Eritrea including firing a rocket to both braggings to overthrow both Governments of Addis Ababa and Asmara.
Three rounds of TPLF instigated wars
Following the TPLF attack against the Northern Command of the National Army, in what it portrayed “preemptive strike”, the Federal Government was left with no option but to launch a counter-defensive military action, which it named “Law Enforcement Operation”. In less than three weeks, the Federal Government took over Mekelle, decisively weakened the TPLF forces, captured some of TPLF’s prominent leaders, and established a Transitional Administration of Tigray. However, some countries in the western hemisphere and global entities dominated by these countries started to put huge pressure on the Federal Government with accusations of human rights violations without even acknowledging the fact that TPLF started the war. The international community also failed to denounce TPLF for committing heinous crimes against members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and firing more than two dozen of rockets at the Amhara region and the State of Eritrea.
After the Federal Government withdrew its forces from the Tigray region declaring a humanitarian ceasefire, these countries and entities left no stone unturned to support the re-grouped TPLF in the name of unfettered humanitarian access. There were times when some ‘aid convoys’ were caught red-handed by the Government of Ethiopia while smuggling light weapons. The moral support rendered for TPLF, ignoring TPLF crimes, equating the rebel TPLF with the legitimate Government of Ethiopia on the one hand, and pressurizing, defaming, sanctioning, threatening, and putting all kinds of coercive measures against the Government of Ethiopia have emboldened the TPLF terror group, leading them to launch the second round of offensive against the Federal Government of Ethiopia.
On the second round of conflict launched by the re-grouped TPLF clique against the Afar and Amhara regions, the western entities’ attempt to embolden TPLF and resurrect this defunct clique had escalated to supporting the TPLF guerilla fighters with satellite images of locations of Ethiopian forces. When they believed that TPLF was approaching the capital city, their media propagated “Addis Ababa is encircled” news, their Embassies announced to evacuate of their staff and pushed others to do so, they continuously released statements of travel alerts, they disseminated fake information about a flight alert alleging a possible missile attack by TPLF and so forth. The regime change attempt intensified up to establishing a sort of “transitional government” in Washington DC, by a group composed of unknown Diasporas from various ethnic backgrounds led by former TPLF Deputy Foreign Minister Ambassador Birhane Gebrekiristos. Nevertheless, Ethiopian forces fiercely fought for the sovereignty of this great nation from the destabilization plan of TPLF and its foreign enablers and managed to repulse back the attack and kicked the guerilla group out of Afar and Amhara regions.
The Federal government then took various confidence-building measures that could bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Withholding the Army from entering the Tigray region, declaring the second humanitarian truce, and facilitating unfettered humanitarian access were the major ones. TPLF however used the opportunity to re-building its army and waged the third round of war after five months of the truce. In order to improve relations with especially the western countries as well, the Government of Ethiopia is said to have formulated a re-engagement strategy and embarked on various diplomatic efforts. This somehow brought a change of tone and approach from some Western countries, but not the desired change of attitude and position.
While the Government also declared its readiness for unconditional peace talks and was awaiting the beginning of peace talks, the TPLF waged the third round of offensive on August 24, 2022, after sending a letter to the international community threatening in what it calls “to break the siege” if basic services are not restored by the Federal Government, rejecting the peace efforts. The Special Envoy of the United States to the Horn of Africa has also recently admitted that TPLF officials told him this during his last visit to Mekelle.
On this third round of war, TPLF continued to deploy a large number of child soldiers and used the human wave tactic of war, putting hundreds of thousands of Tigray people into carnage row. As the WFP chief revealed, TPLF has also stolen 570,000 liters of fuel as well as aid warehouses, which entered for the people of Tigray in need. Yet, the international community is reluctant to boldly denounce TPLF and pressure the group to commit itself to the peace talks rather choosing to equate both parties, the aggressor vs the victim and a Government vs terrorist group.
The West Are Using Sudan To Help Arm The TPLF
The US-led West’s Golden Billion is waging a Hybrid War of Terror on Ethiopia as punishment for Prime Minister Abiy’s principled neutrality in the New Cold War, to which end they’re employing Sudan as one of their top proxies. Up until this point, those who accused that neighboring country of complicity in this conflict were relying on a combination of logic and reports from Ethiopian sources, the latter of which are a party to the hostilities (albeit as the victimized side that’s protecting itself in self-defense) and thus regarded by skeptics as “agenda-driven” and therefore supposedly “can’t be trusted”.
Now, however, there’s no reason for anyone to doubt this dynamic after it was reportedly admitted by the EU’s Horn of Africa envoy Annette Weber. Observers might recognize her as the woman who accompanied her American counterpart Mike Hammer to Mekelle in early August, during which time those two Westerners infamously took selfies with the TPLF’s leader and thus proved their partisan bias in support of his terrorist group. That’s a crucial point to remember in this context because it confirms that she wouldn’t purposely discredit her side’s proxies nor their Sudanese allies.
It’s with this in mind that the New York Times’ (NYT) article about the confidential briefing that Weber allegedly wrote to EU member states last month becomes so damning. This newspaper of record claims to have obtained that selfsame report, the contents of which they included in their piece titled “After Secret U.S. Talks Fail, a Hidden War in Africa Rapidly Escalates”. In it, they informed their audience that Weber wrote about how “Sudan has become a ‘conduit’ for flights carrying arms to Tigray.” It’s only a single sentence but it’s nevertheless a bombshell that most readers probably missed.
The importance of this revelation is that it adds credence to prior concerns about Sudan’s role in the Golden Billion’s Hybrid War of Terror on Ethiopia. It’s no longer just logic and reports from Ethiopian sources that are relied on to reach that conclusion, but allegedly an admission from none other than one of the TPLF’s most infamous supporters, the EU’s own Horn of Africa envoy. Nobody could accuse her of having an agenda aimed at discrediting her side’s proxies in this conflict or their Sudanese allies after she proudly visited the terrorists’ leader in Mekelle to publicly show her support for his separatist cause.
The NYT was obviously never supposed to have obtained that confidential briefing, nor was any other newspaper of record for that matter. Weber was uncharacteristically candid in what she reportedly told EU member states, hence why she didn’t sugarcoat Sudan’s role as “a ‘conduit’ for flights carrying arms to Tigray” like that outlet reported. She clearly wanted them to understand the importance of Sudan in this conflict as one of the main means through which their side continues arming their proxies in their Hybrid War of Terror on Ethiopia.
How could the International Community play a positive role to end the conflict?
The international community, mainly the western countries and entities, played a negative role in derailing the opportunity for a peaceful resolution of this conflict by sympathizing with a terrorist group. It is now the right time to shift their approach. First and foremost, they need to stop equating a democratically elected legitimate government with a terror group that openly waged war to dismember the country. Secondly, they should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia by refraining from overtly and covertly supporting this defunct terror group that’s hell-bent on destroying the country. Thirdly, if they are genuine enough to pacify the region, they need to put the necessary pressure on this destabilizing force that is working with the terror groups of the region including Al-Shabab. Fourthly, they better refrain from their recent attempt to regionalize the conflict. The Western countries need to also denounce some anti-Ethiopian countries’ that attempt to arm the TPLF terror group by trying to deliver weapons.
Besides refraining from playing a negative role in the conflict, western countries and entities have the leverage to play a positive role in the peaceful resolution of this conflict. To do so, the primary step should be ensuring their impartiality to both parties. The next step should be genuinely supporting the AU-led peace efforts, rather than trying to sabotage them. In the possible negotiation process, they need to fully recognize that the only mediator of the peace talks is the African Union High Representative for Horn Africa, Former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo. Hence, they need to accept that their role is only limited to observer status if agreed by both parties. Trying to go beyond this and an attempt to sabotage the process will not bear fruit.
Finally, the international community should not miss the basic fact of what position the majority of 120 million Ethiopian people have towards the TPLF. The other major point is that in any country there is no way where two defense forces live side by side. Therefore, in order to have durable peace in Ethiopia, the so-called ‘Tigray Defense Forces must be disarmed. In this regard, the international community must recognize that to realize peace and a stable Horn of Africa region, a stable and strong Ethiopia is not questioned. The other major point is that, respecting the choice of the majority people of Ethiopia that elected the incumbent Government needs to be fully respected. Hence, any regime change agenda is futile. The western states also should recognize that there are other countries in the international community that have a stake and can play a positive role towards peace in Ethiopia. Last but not least, the international community should understand the long history of the Ethiopian people against attempts to violate their sovereignty and territorial integrity.