The war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region is coming to a head. The central government is threatening the civilian population of the regional capital Mekelle.
BERLIN taz | The warning is clear. “The next phases are the crucial part of the operation,” said Ethiopia’s military spokesman Dejene Tsegaye on Sunday morning on state television to the people of Mekelle, capital of the embattled northern Ethiopian region of Tigray.
He announced the encirclement of the 500,000-inhabitant city by the Ethiopian army and added: “We would like to send a message to the public in Mekelle.” The people now have time to get to safety from artillery fire and to avoid the “Junta “To save, as Ethiopia’s central government calls the regional government of Tigray. “The public must separate from the junta. After that there will be no mercy. “
For days, the Ethiopian government has been warning of the impending climax of the war against Tigray’s rulers, which began on November 4th. The government of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in Addis Ababa in 2018 as an internationally celebrated reformer, is taking military action against the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) ruling in Tigray, which broke away from Abiy’s ruling coalition in 2019 and in September 2020 held its own regional elections despite a ban by the central power.
From Addis Ababa’s perspective, the TPLF rulers in Mekelle have been rebels ever since. When they allegedly attacked an Ethiopian military base, the government declared war on them.
Ethiopian advance into the core area of Tigray
Ethiopia’s army first captured the western parts of Tigray in the past two and a half weeks and then advanced towards the historic core of the region, where the capital Mekelle is located.
According to her own statements, she conquered the birth town of Shire of the TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael, the strategically important city of Adigrat on the road to Eritrea and the ancient Christian imperial city of Axum, a world cultural heritage, whose millennia-old monasteries Moses’ Ark of the Covenant from the Old Testament should accommodate.
“How can a government bomb its own people?”
From Adigrat the Ethiopian troops are now advancing towards Mekelle. They should still be 100 kilometers away. The Ethiopian Air Force already has air sovereignty.
The University of Mekelle was bombed on Thursday. According to eyewitnesses to the taz, supported by photos, 22 students and four other civilians were injured. Other sources speak of 50 injured.
In a message that reached the taz, University President Fetien Abay also listed air strikes on a hydroelectric power station, a sugar factory and a food warehouse. “How can a government bomb its own people?” He asks.
Warnings of an impending massacre of the Tigray people come from numerous voices in the region. Tigrayers in other parts of the country are already living dangerously, as they are now under general suspicion for the state. Hundreds of Tigrayers are said to have been arrested in Addis Ababa.
Accounts of companies from Tigray have been frozen, Ethiopian diplomats of ethnic origin abroad have been called home, and even the WHO director-general Tedros Gebreyesus, who is from Tigray, has been accused of complicity with rebels.
Tigray’s military are not squeamish either
From a military point of view, the Ethiopian approach in Tigray makes little sense. The desert-like, rugged mountain landscape around Mekelle is practically impregnable. This is what all Ethiopian governments who tried to learn had to learn in the past. It is no coincidence that Ethiopia was the only country in Africa to repel its conquest by European colonizers and to remain independent.
The TPLF, which ruled Tigray, was founded in the 1970s as a guerrilla movement against the central Ethiopian power, was a leader in Ethiopia’s government until 2018 and to this day keeps tens of thousands of war-hardened fighters under arms.
In the current war, Tigray is not squeamish either: The Amhara capital Bahir Dar was shelled with rockets, as was the neighboring country Eritrea, which is accused of supporting the Ethiopian offensive. A massacre of several hundred non-Tigrayers in Mai-Kadra, whose bodies the advancing Ethiopian army found on November 10, also remains unresolved.
Conversely, however, Ethiopia’s army and the ethnic militias fighting by their side in Tigray are accused of treating the entire Tigray population as the enemy of the Amhara regional government.
On Sunday there was one in social networks alleged threat discussedTo attack Mekelle with chemical weapons. A pro-government agitator in Addis Ababa had written: “To conquer the demon that is hiding in Mekelle and that protects the civilian population: If you spray them with holy water from the helicopter, who knows, I think they would run into the street screaming . “