There is verifiable information that TPLF is losing the third round of war in Northern Ethiopia, which started on August 24, 2022. But who is in control of which area is not clear. However, what is becoming abundantly evident is that the Ethiopian Allied Forces of ENDF, Amhara Special forces, and Fano will emerge victorious. Therefore, now is the time that Ethiopians should ask what “Victory” means and whether it would be sustainable and result in lasting peace for all Ethiopians. While winning the third round of war is looking like a certainty, unless we do the hard work to secure peace, we may still find ourselves fighting another battle. This article explores and sparks discussions on what needs to be done to secure peace.
There are three distinct scenarios for the outcome of the war in Northern Ethiopia. These are:
- TPLF “Victory”
- Ethiopian Allied Forces Victory
- Peace Negotiation preceded by orderly disarmament and cessation of hostilities followed by a negotiated settlement of the handling of the TPLF officials and operatives
- The TPLF “Victory” Scenario:
Currently, TPLF has lost territories in North Wello that it invaded, whether through defeat or retreat. As of October 7, 2022, there are reports that Ethiopian Allied forces are controlling Shire Indaselassie. TPLF has been hit hard from at least half a dozen battle fronts. Gen Tadesse Worede’s and Gen Tsadkan G. Tinsae’s interviews indicate that TPLF was not prepared for that kind of response.
TPLF’s loss in the first two rounds also confirms that it does not have the ability to win a conventional war. Rather, TPLF’s strength is when it fights a guerrilla war. After losing the third round of war, TPLF might resort to guerilla warfare and hope to wage a war of attrition. Therefore, there is a possibility that TPLF might win in the distant future.
It is worth noting that when Ambassador Tibor Nagy asked Gen Tsadkan whether TPLF had any chance of winning, he said we will fight. Never did he say that TPLF would win. His utter disregard for the young fighters he sends to battle is saddening. Gen Tsadkan, in his response to New York Times interview in December 2021, said, “We were an easy target.” as drones struck its soldiers and convoys. How this so-called brilliant strategist expects he can force peace by attacking Amhara land while at the same time saying Amharas are not TPLF enemies is a mystery. The definition of ‘victory’ on the TPLFs side is often shady. It keeps on changing. Gen Tadesse mentions “Survival, Honor and Rightful Benefits”. Ethiopians interpret that as getting back to power since no one wants or is able to infringe on those “causes”. If TPLF’s end goal or ‘winning’ also implies getting back Welkait/Raya as Gen Tsadkan stated at his Heritage Foundation conference call on October 3, 2022, regime change and getting back to power and dominance, then the chances of that happening have been proven to be NIL.
- Ethiopian Allied Forces “Victory” Scenario:
The Allied Ethiopian Army’s success in the battlefront and the diplomatic arena was achieved by executing the following strategies:
- Applying lessons learned from the previous two rounds of war
- Using Drones and dominating airspace
- Deploying thousands of recently trained fighting forces
- Harnessing the large public support within the rest of Ethiopia
- Engaging in timely Diplomatic and Social Media responses to fight TPLF propaganda machines and false narratives
For the above four reasons and recent confirmed success in battle, it is correct to state that the Ethiopian Allied Forces Victory Scenario has an 8 in 10 (80%) chance of occurring.
- Peace Negotiation – preceded by orderly disarmament and cessation of hostilities
At the Heritage Foundation virtual meeting on October 3, 2022, Gen Tsadkan said it does not matter who fired the first shot. But it does matter since if you resort to violence, you become an insurrectionist. TPLF cannot be trusted with its professed duality of peace-loving yet fight-till-the-end persona. It must immediately disavow violence, lay down arms and cease all hostilities. The Ethiopian government may then be willing to negotiate the further handling of TPLF officials and operatives. One precedent that could be implemented is how the Tamil Tigers’ leadership was treated after their loss. We do not even need to go there; we simply have to remember the aftermath of the defeat of Woyanne 1.0 on 17, October 1943. Rebel Leaders Fitawrari Yeebio Woldai, Dejazmatch Negusse Bezabih, Basha Gugsa Mengesha, and Blata Hailemariam Reda surrendered and were imprisoned from 2 years to 23 years.
Many atrocities and crimes have been committed by the TPLF (Woyanne 3.0) insurgency, beginning with their ‘preemptive’ surprise attack on the Northern Army on November 3, 2020. Then TPLF group continued its criminal actions of slaughtering innocent people and looting and destroying the infrastructure of the Amhara and Afar regions. Therefore, for the sake of peace and ending violence, the two parties may negotiate on the disposition of these issues as they plan to do so on October 9, 2022.
During the first two rounds of fighting, TPLF was able to convince the International Community (IC) that:
- There was a siege of Tigray instead of the “containment/defense” of the TPLF Invasion Forces. It executed this trick by taking Tigrayans as hostages and applying the Stockholm Syndrome. It scared and threatened Tigrayans that they would be massacred as retaliation for TPLF’s repression of Ethiopians during its 27-year rule.
- Attributing the TPLF’s use of hunger as a weapon of war to the government of Ethiopia. TPLF uses the aid to supply its forces. It also uses storage spaces in residential areas and hides fighters with civilians knowing full well they are hard to differentiate and that the International Law of War allows civilians to be targets if they are a cover for the military.
- Exploiting the IC’s concern about atrocities by exaggerating the number of rape victims and killings and using its lobbyists and cyber army to amplify its effect.
- Exploiting the IC Right to Protect principle and painting itself as a victim while being the aggressor.
- Playing the Geopolitics (Egypt, China, Eritrea) game. It was astounding to hear Gen Tsadkan try the Russia and Eritrea alliance angle. Making Eritrea the bogeyman after provoking it and then portraying Eritrea as a threat to the horn of Africa is a stretch. Besides, Ethiopians remember that in 1991, Eritrean fighters were in Addis Ababa as an ally to TPLF. As they say, what strange bedfellows politics make.
With battlefield victories, there is considerable resistance to negotiations now from the majority of Ethiopians. TPLF has proven itself to be untrustworthy as a peace partner. It had two chances, first, when Federal forces left Tigray in July 2021, and second, when Ethiopian Allied forces stopped taking the fight to Tigray in December 2021. In both cases, TPLF set impossible conditions, asked for the AU negotiator to be replaced, started the invasion of Amhara and Afar land, and then launched this third round of war. It is unfathomable to hear Gen Tsadkan repeat these same demands on October 3, 2021.
If TPLF leaders are prisoners of their ego, they could “claim victory” for their mission and enter negotiations. The Ethiopian Federal Government appears to agree to negotiations due to pressure from the IC, but it makes sense to increase military activities to strengthen its ascendancy in the balance of power. For the above reasons, the Peace Negotiation Scenario has a 2 in 10 (20%) chance of succeeding.
However, a protracted “No War – No Peace” situation where TPLF sees some battlefront wins, Allied Ethiopian Forces reverse these wins, and an endless negotiation to continue is also a distinct possibility. This case is what we saw between January and March 2022 when the Ethiopian Allied forces halted their advance to Tigray to the time when aid and other essentials through Afar were allowed to go through to Tigray. The current Ethiopian Leaders have learned from the last two years, and it is expected that they will eliminate this scenario from reoccurring.
Historical Perspective and Post-war path forward
True Victory for Ethiopians is a win where war stops, and there is lasting peace. Peace can be made secure if battlefield wins are followed with strict disarmament, eliminating the ability to start an insurrection and a thorough rehabilitation and reconciliation. These must be done in the order described. What has also made “Victory” and magnanimity possible is the temporary abandonment of TPLF by the US, EU, UN, and its lobbyists. There is a window of opportunity to secure battlefield wins and follow it with reconstruction. The IC would accept the fait accompli and support this outcome.
Some Ethiopians were hoping to hear the US finally call TPLF as terrorists, but it is a big diplomatic shift in consistently calling them “authorities” rather than “regional government”. The only ones screaming support for TPLF in cyberspace are Alex Dewall, TPLF International strategist, and Mike Rubin of the No-fly zone fame a few weeks ago.
Some TPLF supporters, such as Rene Lefort, trumpet an article in Ethio Insight that called for a Referendum on Tigray Independence. TPLF is not clear about its stand on the referendum, as Getachew Reda waffled on this issue when he was asked during an interview with BBC in July 2021. There is hope that Tigray will not seek to be an independent state nor that other Ethiopians would want to expel them. Considering Ethiopia’s long history, imagining an Ethiopia without Tigray and Tigray without Ethiopia is very hard. When you think of Ethiopia, the Adwa victory over Italy, the Axum civilization, Axum Tsion Church, and Nejashi Mosque come to mind. Even if Ethnocentric Ethiopians demonize this as a “nostalgic unitarians” fantasy, it is undisputed that these represent major events and icons in Ethiopian history.
Yet the question of how to convince the Tigray people that TPLF should not represent them still remains. Most people in Tigray support TPLF and do not trust PM Abiy’s government. Therefore, the first step is to introduce good governance in Tigray and not act as an occupier. Learning from Woyanne 1.0 and the last two years is essential. Yet a firm hand during a transition period is needed to discourage the thought of armed resistance. The US made the mistake of disbanding Iraq’s soldiers after the second gulf war. PM Abiy made the mistake of thinking TPLF had blown away like dust in the wind. The Federal government botched its first round of victory in December 2020. It has mismanaged the handling of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia, neglected diplomacy, had poor public relations about food aid, and lacked proper monitoring of the provisional government for Tigray.
Therefore, TPLF must remain labeled as a terrorist party and must ban its high and mid-level operatives for life from Ethiopian Politics. There is a precedent for this in Ethiopia and the world. The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) rejected the Worker’s Party of Ethiopia (ኢሠፓ/DERG Party) request to be registered as a political party using the law passed during the TPLF era. Once you are labeled as a terrorist party by the parliament, you can’t be registered as a political party in Ethiopia.
End Ethnic Violence
In the last 40 years, we have seen that a Tigrayan Ethnocentric group (TPLF) has used its ethnic group as a power base and as a springboard to control and dominate Ethiopia. Therefore, during the charade of “coalition of opposition group leaders” in Washington DC in November 2021, many Ethiopians were questioning whether those “leaders” would be treacherous to TPLF, having learned from what happened in 1991 when TPLF used and discarded the OLF.
While many ethnocentric groups claim that they are fighting to redress Ethnic marginalization, their Modus Operandi seems to be trying to replicate the TPLF playbook and become the one whose turn it is to dominate. There is respect for those who fight for their group rights, but in the last four years, Ethnocentric extremists have stoked resentments and have been the cause of many atrocities.
Therefore, we must go back to our history and try to find commonalities between our people, especially between Oromos, Amharas, and Tigrayans. After the end of this war, it is paramount to find the middle ground between the Ethiopian nationalists (‘unitarians’ as often referred to by the opposing camp) and the Ethnocentrists (‘secessionists’ as they are demonized by those opposing them). We need to be honest about our recent and ancient history, learn from our painful past, and scrap or amend the constitution that has not solved the issues about group rights.
The massacres of hundreds of ethnic Amharas in Wellega on September 28, 2022, killed by the TPLF-aligned Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), was an example of internal frictions emerging along the line of ethnic groups, religion, and economic interest. Moreover, it shows how ethnic minorities will be more vulnerable to ethnic cleansing and displacement.
The atrocities on the people of Tigray are unacceptable. Effective short-term emergency administration in Tigray is necessary. Disarmament, dissolution of armed special forces, and those advocating violence should be the Federal government’s number one job.
With inflation running unabated, an increase in fuel prices, and the general inability of the majority of Ethiopians to economically sustain themselves, lasting peace is a must. World Bank funds to restore services in Tigray can only be used if there is peace. While we should commend PM Abiy’s government for cluster farming, self-sufficiency in food, GERD, and green legacy, what good do these do to those who are already dead because the government was unable to protect them? How does that bring immediate relief to those that are still sleeping hungry at this moment?
Therefore, to ensure that those who died did not perish in vain, victory must be followed by political dialogue. Reconciliation should be achieved by using Ethiopian observers to ensure that lasting peace can be achieved. Orthodox priests from Tigray and Amahara, Muslim clerics, and protestant Christian leaders should also contribute. These observers could also be replaced by Shemagles (Elders from the Tigrayan community and other groups) or religious leaders from the local level with the blessing of the Orthodox Church Patriarch, Synod, Haj, and other religious institutions. The involvement of Local observers to answer Tigrayan concerns and minorities in different regions is needed. It is also necessary to conduct elections in Tigray for a permanent or transitional regional government that excludes TPLF as a party. TPLF is so toxic that even TPLF has stopped calling itself TPLF. A case in point is that Gen. Tsadkan still insists he is one of the leaders of the Tigray regional government but is not a member of TPLF.
National Consensus can be reached with a forum composed of opposition Parties and the Prosperity Party that works with the House of Representatives. The following are recommendations to bring about consensus:
- Make regional governments ensure the security of ALL Ethiopians regardless of ethnic background. Any Ethiopian should be free and SAFE to live and work anywhere in Ethiopia.
- Strengthen local, regional, state, and federal institutions such as law enforcement and the judiciary and fight corruption.
- Settle the Wolkayit/Tegede and Raya issue through Negotiations and codify it into law. Disclosing the findings of the Ethiopian Border Commission Report should be the first step. Then, all options could be put on the table — including a self-administrating region, special federal administration, and a referendum. The effect of the last 25-plus years of occupation and resettlement In Wolkayit will compromise the validity of a referendum process. TPLF’s current gamesmanship of who participates in referendums should also be countered. Gen Tsadkan’s statement that 1.2 million Tigrians have been displaced from Wolkayit must be disproved as it can easily be done. It should be noted that Wolkayit is a red line for Amharas.
- Empower the National Dialogue Commission to revise and strengthen the constitution and have a national vote. The constitution has not protected group rights as the ethocentrists claim to have envisioned it. Therefore, the solution is to amend the ethnic constitution first.
The possible outcome of the above solutions will not just strengthen Ethiopian Institutions but also give the people of Tigray and other regions the ability to govern themselves with whomever they choose to lead them.
PM Abiy, in his interview with The New Yorker magazine, said many Ethiopians will cry when he leaves office. Many Ethiopians hope to shed tears of joy when PM Abiy leaves office. Not out of nostalgia or happiness but because he has handed over the premiership in an orderly and peaceful transition of power. May God bless Ethiopia with a successor to PM Abiy, that will inherit a peaceful and prosperous Ethiopia.
Concerned Ethiopians (CE)