A TPLF in disarray is trying to use propaganda to ride the coattails of the unilateral peace accorded for humanitarian reasons by Prime Minister Abiy, passing it off as a victory. But the peoples of this vast and strategic area have decided: no more room for the hegemonic dreams of the Tigrinya minority
by Guido Talarico
The images and demonstrations of celebration coming from Mekele, the capital of Tigray, contrast with the images of hunger and famine that are reported by UN agencies. But are the surviving leaders of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) right to celebrate? Let’s look in more detail at what the TPLF’s objectives were when they started the war with the 4 November attack, encouraged by the return to power of their American friends sitting in Joe Biden’s new administration. In the meantime, we must start by recalling that the TPLF, a minority party, ruled Ethiopia for 27 long years with the unconditional support of the United States. A government run with an iron fist and stained with horrible crimes against the majority populations of the Oromo and Amhara, which fell only thanks to the election of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a young enlightened leader, later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, who put an end to the power of a minority that considered Ethiopia as its personal property.
After Abiy’s disruptive election, the first objective of the Tigrayans elites was therefore to destroy the Ethiopian army and take possession of the North Command military base, built not surprisingly on their territory during the years they were in power, and thus to appropriate all the military arsenal of the Ethiopian army. The second objective was to use all available war material to recapture Addis Ababa and remove Nobel Prize winner Abiy in a coup d’état. Once they had regained power, with the US administration close by, the TPLF’s objective, which was also publicly declared on their television channels, was to attack Eritrea and overthrow its government. After all, taking Eritrean territories to prepare access to the sea and make Tigray’s independence project viable has always been the TPLF’s fixation. Their dream, the power project that has always guided them, was the creation of an independent Tigray state, with a split and weakened Ethiopia, balkanised we might say, over which to exercise their hegemony and with a downsized Eritrea under domination.
There was, and still is, a strong fear that justice will take its course for crimes committed in the past. Avoiding being brought to trial for all crimes committed in Ethiopia is a serious danger for the Tigrayans people and therefore one of the risks to be avoided. Ethnic and political but also economic crimes that the Ethiopian parliament had begun to pursue and which had led, for example, to the issuing of an arrest warrant against Ghetachew Assefa , former Head of Security and Intelligence of Ethiopia a leading figure in the TPLF.
Then there was, and still is, the issue of money, i.e. avoiding having to return the huge sums stolen from the state coffers. In the 27 years it has been in power, the Ethiopian government estimates that the TPLF has stolen more than EUR 20 billion from the state using private subsidiaries and a network of friendly companies used to transfer funds abroad. Parliamentary enquiries have already uncovered these economic crimes and identified those directly responsible, who should now be brought to justice. Finally, there is a strategic issue, one of geopolitics one might say. The Tigrayans , by now defeated by history, had set themselves the objective of changing the positive dynamic that had been created in the Horn of Africa with the peace quickly signed between Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan. A stability which risked compromising the objectives of the TPLF and which did not please those foreign allies who have an interest in keeping the area weak and unstable. None of these objectives has been achieved, despite the media and political support that the United States has given to its former Tigray allies. An American support that seems to underestimate the devastating consequences that it has produced and could further produce in the area.
But let us now try to understand in numbers and in facts why the TPLF has failed to pursue the objectives we have just described. Let’s start by saying that 70% of the Tigrinya’s armed forces have been destroyed in the last eight months and that Ethiopia will no longer allow their military reinforcement. Even their latest demand to have airports under their direct control to bring military supplies disguised as humanitarian aid will not be allowed by the federal government which will demand the complete demilitarisation of Tigray. In short, whether the West likes it or not, the military strength of the TPLF, the one that allowed it to dominate the other ethnic minorities for over 20 years, is gone and will never be rebuilt. There is also a fact of historical truth: the Ethiopian population has finally discovered the true nature of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front thanks to the work done by the Ethiopian parliament, which has investigated, and is still investigating, the abuses and embezzlement carried out by the TPLF in recent decades. The parliament, for instance, has described the TPLF as a terrorist organisation, which is working to regain its own organised military force.
Of course, in the background there is a serious humanitarian issue, which has seen thousands of people caught in the grip of famine and clashes between the Ethiopian regular army and Tigrayan forces. The situation is so serious that it has led the Ethiopian government to declare a unilateral ceasefire to meet the needs of the civilian population in Tigray. A humanitarian gesture decided by the Addis Ababa government that should have pushed the TPLF to seize the opportunity to make a concrete contribution to humanitarian efforts to help the Tigrayans. A truce that was also a way out for the TPLF, who should have tried to make up for the failure of their disastrous plan and seek a peaceful reconciliation in the interest of their own people whom they say they want to defend from the aggressors. Instead, once again the TPLF has shown that it only wants to follow its own crazy elitist interests: the declarations of war and hostile communiqués certify once again that the nature of this movement has no peaceful purpose and the international community should finally take note of this.
Finally, we come to the subject of propaganda, an instrument of struggle and power with which the Tigrayans , thanks also to their substantial financial reserves stolen abroad, still manage to pass on a false narrative in the international press. The pictures and photographs of hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers parading through the streets of Mekelle reported in the past few days by international newspapers actually appear to belong to the period in early November 2020 when TPLF militias treacherously attacked the Northern Command and took thousands of prisoners. Some had managed to escape and take refuge in Eritrea where they were received and treated before returning to Tigray. Those who remained prisoners were held as human shields, used to prevent attacks on TPLF leaders who had hidden in the caves of the Tigrayan Tembien. After Abiy’s withdrawal of the Ethiopian soldiers and the abandonment of Mekele, the TPLF militiamen who had been hiding in Mekele’s houses disguised as civilians, came out with guns and staged victory celebrations in which they attempted to use the November prisoners as proof of their declared victory. The Eritrean soldiers had retired several weeks earlier despite the disinformation campaigns and the latest gigantic fake news. Any serious analyst and observer could verify easily the reality on the ground. Unfortunately, instead, once again there was a tam tam of articles and fanciful statements that a simple verification was able to disprove. But this too, as we said, is a seen film: in propaganda, the TPLF still have some ammunition to spend.
The simple truth is that the sovereign governments of at least four states (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan) have succeeded in the space of a few years in reaching peace agreements and economic and social understandings that ensure a path of peace and development for an area as vast and strategic as the Horn of Africa. The only enemies of this project are the Tigrinya, a small ethnic group that has cunningly and cynically held the entire area in check for decades, using its economic power and good international relations. But this page is now closed forever. History has been revealed, the people have become aware of the truth. Exploiting the humanitarian emergency for their own propaganda purposes is yet another proof of Tigrayans ruthlessness. International peacekeepers, humanitarian organisations should go a step further and look with greater attention and respect at the travails and ambitions for peace and development in the Horn of Africa, which can no longer be sacrificed for the greed of a minority. Four nations living in an objectively complicated context cannot be blocked in their thirst for rebirth by the greed of a minority defeated first and foremost by its own very ugly history. Using the unilateral peace offered by President Abiy on humanitarian grounds as a propaganda opportunity to sing a non-existent victory is the latest horrendous proof of how miserable and brutal the TPLF leaders’ view of their own people is. It was an opportunity to stop the conflict, help the people and find an agreement to restart. Instead, more propaganda, more fourth-rate lies shouted to the world in an attempt to preserve power and privileges that will never return. Stopping the violence, helping the people, pacifying the area means blocking not the Tigrayans but the TPLF, the real enemy of its own people. It is time for everyone to take note of this inescapable truth.