Ethiopia PM ends offensive after the capture of Tigray’s capital Mekelle

Despite the TPLF vowing to continue fighting, Abiy Ahmed announced an end to military operations in the Tigray region after the army declared “full control” over the city.

Ethiopia’s government has been on a mission to quell the rebellion by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a powerful ethnic faction that previously held the reins of power in Addis Ababa. Unconfirmed reports give the casualty figure in the thousands with a million people forced out of their homes. Thus far over 43,000 refugees have fled into neighboring Sudan. 

As part of the Twitter announcement, the Nobel Laurette described the next step forward as a need to rebuild the current destruction, returning those who flee the conflict and normalizing relations across the entire Tigris region. 

In response to the comments by the Prime Minister, Debretsion Gebremichael said that the Tigryan forces will continue their hostilities with the government. In a message to Reuters, he described the battle as a “right to self-determination.”

The PM’s comments came right after army chief General Birhanu Jula disclosed that government forces “completely controlled Mekelle” The Ethiopian National Broadcaster also announced the release of 7,000 members of the Northern Command held hostage by the TPLF. 

Also read: Clock ticking for Tigray as Ethiopia PM gives a 72-hour ultimatum

The 72-hour government ultimatum expired on Wednesday, prompting the incursion. Some of the residents of Addis Ababa celebrated the news of the capture of Mekelle. Former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn tweeted, “Let peace prevail in Ethiopia!!!”

The TPLF was given an ultimatum to surrender or face an all-out assault against Mekelle hosting over half a million residents. Debretsion described the situation in Mekelle as a “heavy bombardment.” Diplomats in direct contact with residents at Mekelle confirmed the presence of an offensive. 

Also read: Tigray rejects the 72-hour surrender ultimatum

Claims made by either side are hard to verify given the complete cut of communication. No official number has been given by the government on the number of casualties either. According to Aljazeera reports, it is believed that the TPLF retreated to the mountains with the bulk of their military equipment. Thus far efforts are underway to see if both parties can arrive at a negotiated political solution. Abiy has rebuffed any negotiation pointing to the attack on federal troops at the base in Tigray. The TPLF described this attack as botching a pre-emptive raid. 

TPLF has prior experience fighting on rugged terrain, a situation that experts forewarn of a long drawn out conflict whose culmination could destabilize the entire region. Some reports emerged of explosions in the Eritrean capital right after Mekelle was taken. 

The TPLF began as a fighting movement in the 1970s, eventually capturing power in 1991 after the overthrow of Mengistu Haile Mariam’s communist regime. This multi-ethnic coalition was governed by ethnic Tigryans for several decades. The situation only changed in 2018 after mass anti-government protests led to the rise of Abiy Ahmed. Since then, TPLF has complained of sidelining and marginalization by the current regime. 

Ph: The Defence Post