Ethiopia. TDF and OLA focus on Addis Ababa?
Tigray and Oromia conflicts have spread nationwide. While the regular Tigray army is about to block the Giubuti — Addis Ababa transport corridor and threatens the capital of Amhara: Gondar, the Oromo Liberation Army is advancing on Addis Ababa and in the Gambella region on other guerrilla is threatening to resume the armed struggle. The federal army is almost out of the game as the first signs of cracks in the Agegnehu Teshager — Temesgen Tiruneh — Abiy Ahmed Ali alliance emerge.
Reports from both regional and international journalistic and military sources confirm heavy defeats suffered by the Ethiopian Federal Army (ENDF) in the Afar region inflicted by the regular army of Tigray. The offensive began last weekend. The Afar regional government (under the control of the Prosperity Party) told Reuters it was able to push back the Tigrinya forces.
Subsequent events demonstrate a very different reality. Tigrinya regular forces currently control about 40% of the neighboring region. Federal troops suffered heavy casualties while the AFAR defense forces and those sent by Oromia show little willingness to fight.
The situation is so desperate that the Afar Prosperity Party (through the regional president and the head of Afar security: Ibrahim Hamid) has launched appeals to civilians to fight, extending the appeal to all the peoples of Ethiopia. Afar civilians have not heard the appeal, worried about a war that is not their own, fought in their region.
The Ethiopian NGO APDA (AFAR Pastoral Development Association) reports that over 50,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, stating that the regular Tigray army controls at least four cities. APDA also spoke of looting of private homes by Tigrinya troops. The UN agencies only confirm the figures regarding IDPs.
The road and railway network that connects Ethiopia with the only outlet to the sea: the port of Djibouti is the next target of the regular Tigrinya army, which is advancing towards the locality of Mille where the road and railway junction connecting Djibouti and Addis Ababa is located. The goal is to isolate the entire country by blocking all imports and exports of goods and fuel. If the goal will be reach, the economy, already seriously compromised by the Covid19 pandemic and the two conflicts in Tigray and Oromia, would suffer an irreparable collapse. A division of the regular army positioned in Mille is awaiting reinforcements and air support to repel the offensive and prevent the blockade of transport.
The nationalist Amhara leadership, through its Trolls on social media, has spread the news that the Djiboutian army is preparing to enter Ethiopia to support the federal army against that of Tigray. The government of Djibouti vehemently denied this news, stating that units of its army were deploy at the border only for defensive purposes. The armed forces of Djibouti consist of 20,470 ground troops, which are divide into several manned regiments and battalions in various areas of the country (2018 estimate).
Djibouti hosts military / naval bases of the United States, Japan, Italy, Spain, China and Saudi Arabia. The deployment of troops on the Ethiopian border would be a preventive measure in defense of the territorial and political stability of the small country in the Horn of Africa which holds great strategic importance. Djibouti is located on the important Bab el-Mandeb strait. A must for the Suez Canal, one of the busiest sea routes in the world. Thirty percent of all shipments in the world pass this point and it is a vital logistics hub for global oil and commodity trade. Djibouti’s proximity to the unstable regions of the Middle East and Africa makes it the perfect location for military bases.
The offensive in Afar is not a regular Tigray army isolated act. A second offensive is underway in the Amhara region. Tigray forces defeated federal troops and Amhara militias in Kobo and Aid Arqay. The Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) captured military depots and equipment including tanks, BM-40 rocket launchers and heavy artillery. Following the TDF victory in Kobo, it is report that TDF is moving to the city of Woldiya, which is the capital of North Wollo, in the Amhara region.
Everything suggests that the next target is the Amhara capital of Gondar. The situation is so serious that the nationalist Amhara leadership has declared the curfew, while the chief of the secret police Temesgen Tiruneh has visited Gondar to encourage what remains of the federal army and Amhara militias. “TPLF must be destroyed once and for all wherever it is. TPLF is the enemy of the Amhara and of all the Ethiopian people”, said Tiruneh, before returning to Addis Ababa to coordinate the mass round-up of Ethiopian citizens of Tigrinya origin. Heavy fighting is underway in the Zarema area, the last bastion of defense before being force to fight in the streets of Gondar.
The two offensives in Afar and Amhara suggest that the regular Tigray army is aiming to destroy the national economy in order to prevent the “enemy” from continuing the war and, at the same time, from heading straight for Addis Ababa. The distance between Gondar and the Ethiopian capital is 657 km. Being served by excellent roads, the distance can be covered in less than 12 hours. The fall of Gondar would seriously endanger Addis Ababa.
“Abiy Ahmed’s war machine is essentially destroyed. What remains of his army is in disarray”, says TPLF spokesman Getachew K Reda. General Birhanu Jula, chief of staff of the federal forces responds by issuing an ultimatum to the regular Tigray army to suspend the fighting and accept a ceasefire. Birhanu threatens to put on the battle ground a new mega-army better prepared, stronger, more experienced and well equipped. According to various military experts, these are empty threats. ENDF divisions would be progressively abandoning the Afar and Amhara regions to concentrate on the defense of Addis Ababa.
The concerns of the nationalist Amhara leadership are not limited to the north of the country. The capital Addis Ababa is already threat by the Oroma Liberation Front (OLA). The Oromo guerrillas claim the conquest of several locations in the Dugda Dawa district. As evidence of their claims, they released footage of the battle stating that 400 federal soldiers were kill, wounded or taken prisoner. During the urban battles, OLA organized special units for the protection and evacuation of civilians. OLA also proclaims the release of political prisoners imprisoned in a local prison. The fighting is taking place just 60 km from the capital Addis Ababa.
In the Gambella region, on the border with South Sudan, the Gambella Liberation Front (GLF) claims it has lost faith in peace negotiations with the Prosperity Party and is threatening to resume hostilities. The GLF was formed in 1985 at the time supported by the Khartoum government. At the time of its founding, the GLF had the declared objective of freeing Gambela from the dominion of the Highlanders (mountaineers of Amharic, Tigrin and Oromo ethnic groups). After participate in the liberation war against Menghistu’s Red Terror, in 1995 the GLF had agreed to lay down its arms by founding the People’s Liberation Party of Gambella; taking a conflicting position against the government coalition dominated by the TPLF that had caused the recovery of the armed struggle. The conflict ended with a truce and peace negotiations promoted by Abiy in 2019. Now the military strength of this rebel group is unknown, so it is not possible to assess whether it represents a real threat.
The military events of this week obliterate any possibility of peacefully resolving Ethiopia’s military political crisis. Regular Army of Tigray and the OLA appear to be in a position of strength that frustrates calls for a ceasefire to open peace negotiations. Confidential sources say that three days ago the staff of the ENDF tried to open a dialogue with the Tigrinya army. Proposal rejected due to round-ups and assassinations of hundreds of Tigrinya living in Addis Ababa, Gondar, and other Ethiopian cities under the control of the Prosperity Party. The information was not confirm by TPLF and federal government.
According to some regional military experts, the federal defense forces are now at the mercy of events, while TDF and OLA are racing against time to secure the victories on the field necessary to increase their political weight in a possible “Post-Abiy “. OLA guerrillas are militarily inferior to Tigrinya forces but the weight of their ethnicity (40% of the total population) prevents TPLF from ignoring the main political formations: Oromo Liberation Front and Oromo Federalist Congress.
“Despite the claims of TPLF leaders, it is unthinkable that the volume of fire from his army which is allowing him to defeat the federal one and the various regional militias derives only from the armament captured in battle. We do not know who and how, but someone is providing them with weapons, ammunition and logistical support. However, this cannot be transform into victim consolation for Premier Abiy.
At the basis of his downfall there is an underestimation of the enemy (TPLF) and the unforgivable mistake of making public the military agreements signed with the Russia. Let us speak clearly. Since the Ethiopia-Russia Military Cooperation Forum held two weeks ago in Addis Ababa, the United States has radically changed its stance on its Ethiopian ally. I believe that the military successes of the TPLF and the change in US foreign policy towards Ethiopia are closely link”, said a Nigerian military expert stationed at the African Union in Addis Ababa.
First cracks of the Agegnehu Teshager — Temesgen Tiruneh — Abiy Ahmed Ali alliance.
The demonstration in support of the federal army held in Addis Ababa is a clear signal that Premier Abiy and the Prosperity Party still enjoy popular support. Let us not forget that the real voting percentages of the June 21 elections are around 40% of the votes in favor of the Prosperity Party. Attempts to minimize popular participation in the demonstration made on social networks by supporters of the TPLF are to be consider pure propaganda.
Yet we see the first worrying cracks in the alliance between Amhara and the Nobel Peace Prize. The online news site Mereja.com two days ago published an alarming article: “Abiy Ahmeda’s regime is sabotaging the Amhara forces.” Mereja is an influential far-right Amhara propaganda organ able to influence the political choices of Teshager and Tiruneh.
Amhara extremists claim in the article that the federal army is virtually out of the game and accuse Abiy of failing to provide the necessary logistical and military support to the Amhara forces who are desperately trying to block the TDF offensive and save their capital: Gondar.
“On the Wolkait front, the Amhara special forces and the Fano militia are not supplied with weapons and food by the Amhara administration and the federal government. Many of the fighters go without food for up to 5 days. Despite the claims of the Abiy regime and its supporters, the TPLF is winning, not because it has superior leadership, better fighters and more weapons, but because the TPLF is fighting an opponent (Amhara’s forces) who is sabotaged and stabbed in the back by Abiy Ahmed and his puppet Agegnehu Teshager.
Amhara’s forces are demoralized and disillusioned when they discover that the propaganda they are hearing from the government and the reality on the ground are far apart. For the Amhara, victory over the TPLF will be too costly if they continue to fight under the current Amhara and federal leadership. The solution is to force Agegnehu Teshager’s Amhara administration to form an interim administration made up of all Amhara political parties, senior statesmen, military officers, economic planners and others. If the Amhara can unite under trusted leadership, they will collaborate with all other Ethiopian patriots, and will be able to defeat the TPLF and save Ethiopia from Abiy Ahmed’s sinister plot. “
These statements are not the result of a handful of warmongering extremists. The far right Amhara controls the majority of the Special Forces and 100% of the Fano militias. Agegnehu Teshager and Temesgen Tiruneh are aware of their political, military weight and cannot ignore the warnings contained in this article. Background noises speak of a coup to remove Abiy and save what can be saved with a last-minute peace…