by Dr. Suleiman Walhad
Ethiopia was in a civil war for over forty years now, though the world believes it started only some nine months ago. The TPLF or the Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front started as a liberation movement in 1975 and since then has been fighting the Ethiopian government to liberate Tigray from Ethiopia, even though for some 27 years the TPLF, itself, was running the country, but it never truly changed its anatomy of a liberation movement or reconciled itself to being part of the Ethiopian fabric – a multi-national space kept together through Amhara imperial force, metamorphosing from its original Abyssinia to present day Ethiopia.
As was always the case through millennia, civil wars and droughts and famines in Ethiopia are deadly and always take many thousands of deaths. The TPLF-inspired civil war took many lives from its inception in 1975 to the present day and is expected to continue to do so in the foreseeable future. This ethno-nationalist movement has continued the civil war within Ethiopia, even though they were running the country, all the time preparing for the eventuality of their loss of power. It is why they moved most of the military hardware and software of the Ethiopian National Defence Force and its air force to Tigray. They also moved most of the manufacturing base of the country to Tigray during their rule and built roads, bridges and even planned ports to serve them in other neighbouring countries such as the Tadjoura Port of Djibouti, specifically built to be a direct lifeline to Tigray’s capital, Mekelle.
They were, indeed, preparing for a long time for their ethno-nationalist goal of separating from Ethiopia. And so, when the straw was broken and they were removed from power in 2018, they embarked on their original quest of seceding from the state of Ethiopia, refusing to abide by the laws of the land or the rule of the new leadership, which eventually led to the current disastrous civil war.
The land of the Tigray is a rough one. It consists of an inaccessible terrain marked by deep gorges and high mountains, quite suitable for guerrilla warfare, and difficult for any army to fully control or capture. With Ethiopia enmeshed in other conflicts such as the water disputes with Egypt, border skirmishes with Sudan, and reconciliation with Eritrea, its arch foe for many years, the TPLF was nevertheless defeated but out of the blue the TPLF got support from unexpected quarters, the humanitarian army of the world, who soon after the declenchement of the new face of the civil war, raised alarm through the media and twisted the arms of the western governments that a genocide was taking place in Tigray, the northernmost state of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia suddenly found itself facing accusations of committing ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Tigray region. The financial aid was discontinued and Ethiopia, for the first time, found itself isolated from its traditional backers in the West. With the GERD issues hanging over its head and the continuing TPLF instigated civil war, and Sudan intent of recovering the Benishangul region, Ethiopia found itself cornered, and unexpectedly announced a unilateral ceasefire with the Tigray, moving most of its forces from the region, although the Tigrayans did capture and parade some of them for the world to see, that they were, indeed, back with a full force.
This raises many questions such as: why Ethiopia is being targeted at this time? Why are the Russians back signing military and other technical co-operation agreements with Ethiopia? Where do the Chinese who have heavy investments in the country stand? The tears are not only for the death of the stag but something bigger, so says a Somali proverb, and we believe that the Ethiopian situation is complex and much more complicated than just the TPLF. The repercussions and the resultant endgame seem to point to a new cold confrontation, but the question remains, why now? And why Ethiopia?
Dr. Suleiman Walhad