Saturday, November 21, 2020

War in Ethiopia: Why and How Was it Started? Where is it Now?

It has been more than two weeks now since a war broke out in the northern part of Ethiopia. Why and how was it started? where is it now?

Ethiopian Defense Force members in action (Photo : FDRE Defense SM)


November 20, 2020

The war in Ethiopia is between Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian Defense Force. However, TPLF depicts it differently. It says the war is between the Ethiopian Defense Force, which TPLF calls “invader,” and “The People of Tigray.” Tigray is an integral part of Ethiopia.

Who started it?

The war started on November 4 in the evening after TPLF forces attacked northern command in what they called “preemptive strike” on Ethiopian Defense Forces. TPLF has confirmed it. Unsuspecting Ethiopian Defense Force members were attacked. Some soldiers who were massacred were sleeping when the attack was launched.  Apart from massacring soldiers, TPLF seized important heavy weapons including rockets and missiles under the northern command of the Ethiopian Defense Force. 

It was not totally unexpected. TPLF has been preparing for it after it losing domination over the Federal government following the election of Abiy Ahmed as Prime Minister in April 2018. 

TPLF is believed to have armed over 250,000 people including militia and police forces before launching the war.

When many of the bases of the northern command were under siege by TPLF forces, Amhara regional State special forces came to rescue the forces especially in Dansha Humera, a region that was part of Gonder zone of what is now Amhara region, and Ethiopian Defense Forces managed to break out of the siege. In the ensuing days, the defense force deployed reinforcements for what it called a campaign to enforce the rule of law by bringing TPLF leaders to justice. 

The State of the war 

Ethiopian Defense Force controlled many of the towns in the Tigray region. Adwa and Aksum were the latest ones. They came under the control of the Ethiopian Defense Force on Friday.

TPLF claims that it has inflicted heavy losses on the Ethiopian Defense Force but the advance to Mekelle is not checked.  The army is now advancing to Mekelle from all directions which means that there is likelihood for the city to come under siege in a matter of weeks, if not days.

TPLF fired rockets twice in a span of six days. Bahir Dar and Godar from northwestern Ethiopia and Eritrean capital Asmara were targeted in the rocket attacks but no casualty is reported.

It is believed that hundreds of soldiers and special forces had been killed from both sides. But the figure is yet to be announced.

The majority of Ethiopians are outraged that TPLF attacked the Defense Force in a horrifying manner. Apart from the killings, Ethiopians accuse TPLF of making Ethiopia vulnerable to foreign enemies by attacking the Defense Force and dragging Ethiopia to war that TPLF will never win.

Arrest warrant were issued against 76 senior military officers who conspired with TPLF to attack the Defense Force.

Government passed decisions this week to freeze bank accounts of 34 companies in the country that belong to TPLF and affiliates.

An end to the War?

Government says the will come to an end when the TPLF leaders responsible for multiples of crimes including treason are brought to justice.

The Ethiopian government is already discussion transitional administration in Tigray until the next election which will happen in nine months to one year.


Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) was a coalition of four ethnic-based parties. TPLF was one of them. While it represented only six percent of the Ethiopian Population, it dominated power for 27 years. A nationwide protest for several years got to a point where TPLF could not continue as a dominant power in the coalition.

 A year after in power, Abiy Ahmed initiated and implemented the merger of EPRDF coalition as a single national party with a new political ideology although the ethnic character of the political tradition that TPLF entrenched with fervor remained intact. However, Revolutionary Democracy ideology ceased to be the ideology of the newly merged ruling party – Prosperity Party. As the TPLF lost dominance in the center, it retreated to Mekelle – the seat of the Tigray Regional State. Since TPLF was essentially in full control of the key positions in the defense force and security apparatus including the nation’s intelligence department, it started to conspire against the central government from Mekelle.

Abiy Ahmed’s government has been accusing TPLF of orchestrating and financing killings of hundreds of people in the Benishangul Gumuz region, Oromo region, and Southern Ethiopian region. It is also implicated in the assassination of Hachalu Hundesa – an incident that is said to have been executed in a way to cause ethnic-based killings in the Oromo region of Ethiopia – mostly targeting ethnic Amhara.

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