UN report reveals fears of long and bitter war in Ethiopia
A confidential United Nations assessment reveals that Ethiopian national forces are meeting heavy resistance and face a protracted “war of attrition” in the northern region of Tigray.
In early November 2020, the Tigray region and the Ethiopian federal government entered into conflict, with some gunfire being reported in the capital of Tigray, Mekelle.
Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian prime minister, said early last week that the Ethiopian Defence Forces (EDF) were poised to make a “final push” to secure Mekelle and oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party in the region.
Though Ethiopian officials in Addis Ababa have repeatedly claimed that key Tigray towns have been secured, paramilitaries and militia deployed by the army are still struggling to clear and secure territory.
One UN assessment predicted that if Ethiopian forces continue to advance, their supply lines and rear areas will become more vulnerable to guerilla attacks and casualties will mount.
The UN document and other international organizations say the two-week-old conflict threatens to become a long and brutal battle, destabilising one of Africa’s most fragile regions.
Information has been difficult to obtain and confirm with communications cut to Tigray and journalists banned. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people have been killed so far and many more have been displaced.
More than 36,000 have fled into neighboring Sudan, and large numbers are on the move within Tigray to avoid the fighting.
The African Union has appointed former presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa as special envoys to seek a ceasefire and mediation talks.
The conflict in north-west Ethiopia is the culmination of months of rising tensions between the TPLF and the ruling coalition in Addis Ababa. When national elections were cancelled because of the pandemic, the TPLF held polls anyway, in a move that aggravated tensions.
Abiy, who is Africa’s youngest leader and won the Nobel peace prize last year, launched his operation after accusing the TPLF of attacking a military camp and trying to seize military hardware.