Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that the country’s military has conducted airstrikes in the breakaway state of Tigray against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
“These airstrikes aren’t aimed at civilians but rather at targets stored by this dangerous group.” The operation will continue “until the junta is made accountable by law,” he said.
Ahmed said that missiles, radar equipment, and rockets had been destroyed in the airstrikes around the regional capital of Mekelle. He specified that the destroyed rockets had a range of 300km (186 miles).
He left no doubt that the government intends to bring the Tigray group, which is located in the northern area of the country, to heel. He added that the “large-scale law enforcement operation” has “clear, limited and achievable objectives: to restore the rule of law and the constitutional order.” Many fear this may lead to an all-out civil war.
Primi Minister Ahmed described the Tigray leadership as “fugitives from justice [that] us[e] the civilian population as human shields.”
Birhanu Jula, Ethiopia’s deputy Army Chief, said that the military was entering into an unexpected conflict.
“Our country has entered into a war that it did not want. This war is a shameful war. It does not have a point. The people of Tigray and its youth and its security forces should not die for this pointless war. Ethiopia is their country.” The military is mobilizing troops from around the country and sending them to the Northern Command to beef up its forces in Tigray.
The Ethiopian army’s base in Tigray has been seized by the TPLF.
However, officials in Tigray have denied that any attacks took place. Yet, Tigrayan leader Debretsion Gebremichael did admit that fighting took place west of Tigray. He added that his troops had seized “almost all” of the weaponry at the Command’s base.
“I stated that they have decided to go to war and we should all prepare to foil it. This is our proclamation, so let it be clear,” Gebremichael warned.
“There is no reason for this because the people of Tigray held an election. There was nothing new that happened. This is the action of a self-loving government that is trying to resolve, albeit though not possible, political differences through force, weapons, and war. That is why they have declared war on the people of Tigray.”
Prime Minister Ahmed declared a six-month state of emergency for the Tigray region. He has authorized the military to disarm any regional security force, impose travel restrictions and a curfew, detain suspects engaged in illegal activities that endanger the constitutional order, and use proportional force to restore law and order.
One of the first things the Ethiopian government did was to cut off Tigray from the outside. Airports in Mekelle and the regional cities of Shire, Axum, and Humera are “closed for any services.” The government also cut all internet and phone lines in the Tigray region following the announcement.
The Sudan News Agency reported that the border between Sudan and Ethiopia was closed due to the tensions, “until further notice” per the order of the acting governor of Kassala province.
The TPLF had dominated Ethiopian politics until Ahmed’s election in 2018. Since then its power has waned. In 2019, Ahmed dissolved the ruling coalition, made up of several ethnically-based regional parties, and merged them into a single, national party called the Prosperity Party. The TPLF refused to join it.
The TPLF held regional elections in September despite the national government’s orders to the contrary because of the coronavirus pandemic. The national government called the elections illegal and said that the TPLF was laying the groundwork to establish a breakaway state.
The TPLF stated that they were committed to remaining within Ethiopia, but insisted that they would defend their self-rule and rejected Ahmed’s attempt to build a “unitary state.”
The recent events in the country have put it on the path to open civil war.