Tigrayans fighting for survival, Abiy for control as TPLF establishes conditions for ceasefire
Ethiopia’s government is now blaming the Tigray People’s Liberation Front [TPLF] for the country’s northern region’s problems, including the ongoing humanitarian crisis, as the TPLF has indicated a willingness to consider a ceasefire in light of rapidly changing political and military developments and their implications for the country’s peace and security.
“It has become more clear that the present government lacks both legitimacy and constitutional authority, as well as the capacity to manage the country,” the TPLF said on Thursday.
“In light of this, we are urging the country’s main political players to commit to a transitional arrangement and an inclusive political process aimed at resolving the country’s present political and constitutional problems.”
The TPLF announced ceasefire preconditions soon after the Ethiopian army retreated from Mekelle, Tigray’s capital, in late June.
They now demand that suspended services such as telecommunications, banking, and health care, as well as electricity, all modes of transportation, and commerce, be restored immediately. Additionally, it demands an immediate halt to the region’s media blockade.
Additionally, they demand the quick release of withheld Tigrayan budget funds for the next Ethiopian fiscal year, as well as the creation of numerous humanitarian corridors for the supply of all kinds of humanitarian aid.
Other requirements include the release of political prisoners — former members of the National Defense Forces imprisoned solely for their ethnic origins; and a halt to the country’s continuing mass arrests of ethnic Tigrayans.
Ethiopia’s federal police admitted detaining a number of ethnic Tigrayans in Addis Ababa on suspicion of having ties to the TPLF.
“Acceptance of the requirements as preconditions for negotiations on a negotiated ceasefire should be preceded by the execution of the five parameters, which should be publicised via foreign and domestic media outlets,” the TPLF statement said.
Addis Ababa made no quick response to the latest suggested set of criteria. However, Billene Seyoum, the spokesman for Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy, said that it would be impossible for the Ethiopian government to engage in talks with a terror-designated organization responsible for assaults in two regional nations.
The TPLF previously disregarded Ethiopia’s unilateral ceasefire, which was imposed in response to a series of battlefield casualties. Rather than that, they pushed to reclaim territory and invaded the neighbouring Afar area this week. However, international pressure on the warring parties to lay down their weapons and enable assistance to reach civilians had been increasing.
Samantha Power, the USAID Administrator, is scheduled to visit Addis Ababa next week to discuss the situation in Tigray, where the TPLF has fought a battle against government troops and allied regional militias.
Power’s objective is to press for action to lift aid embargoes on Tigray. However, it comes as the US and Western allies press both sides for a more meaningful ceasefire. According to diplomatic sources in Addis Ababa, there was an effort to have all sides honour a US-led truce and enable humanitarian aid to continue.
It was uncertain if the two sides could reach an agreement on ceasefire conditions, particularly given Ethiopia’s Prime Minister’s initial rejection of talks with a group he now deems terrorist.
However, pressure on Addis Ababa increased this week following a meeting between Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau and Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen. Mr Garneau stated that he had expressed “concerns” about Tigray’s humanitarian situation.
“Minister Garneau urged the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and government forces to halt military operations in and around Tigray,” according to a statement released Thursday by Garneau’s office.
“Minister Garneau encouraged Ethiopia’s administration to engage in discussion with all national parties and regional partners in order to find a political solution.”
Ethiopian authorities, on the other hand, accuse the TPLF of crimes and the international community of being quiet. The spokesman for the Prime Minister accused the international community of “obvious double standards.”
“Many who previously spoke out for the well-being of Tigrayans in the region have become silent when the TPLF blocks aid, when it murders Tigrayans who oppose the TPLF structure, and when it recruits child soldiers,” she told a press conference in Addis Ababa on Thursday.
“When people are exploited as human shields and bullet fodder, the international world has remained silent.”
“Regional militias have banded together against the TPLF, joining forces with the Amahara in an effort to halt the Tigray troops’ advance. However, even the provincial militias unified against the TPLF battled amongst themselves at one time. Somali troops, for example, stopped the major route from Djibouti in protest of Afar forces’ ‘looting.’ Afar had been attacked a few days before by the TPLF.
“Neither the Ethiopian government nor the Afar and Amhara regions benefit from obstructing humanitarian assistance to fellow Ethiopians in Tigray,” Demeke told Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, refuting claims that Ethiopian forces blocked roads.
“The TPLF controlled the nation in a manner like that of a foreign invader. Its goal, which was kept secret from the majority of Ethiopians and the rest of the world, was to establish an independent Tigray state,” according to Berhanu Lemma, a consultant on defence and security strategy and current adviser at Ethiopia’s Defense Research Centre.
He explained in a EastAfrican report seen by NCMP that losing power provided an opportunity for the TPLF to pursue long-held ambitions, including territorial expansion into neighbouring regions.
“The deployment of these regional troops with the ENDF will undermine the TPLF’s propaganda by demonstrating the opposition’s unity.”