For the first time in the history of Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa, a direct armed confrontation is taking place between one of its regions and the central government.
What increases fears that the Tigray region may go a step further than confrontation, and decide to secede from the central state of Ethiopia, based on the right granted to it by Article (39) of the country’s constitution of 1995, which allows each of the peoples of Ethiopia the right to self-determination and indefinite separation conditional.
The Tigray Front.. Origin and development
The Tigrays are an ethnic group that lives in the central and northern parts of Eritrea, and in the eastern Ethiopian highlands in the Tigray region.
Tigrays constitute about 99.6% of the population of the Ethiopian Tigray region, and 6.1% of the total population of Ethiopia, with a population of about 5.7 million people.
1974: The regime of Emperor Haile Selassie I lost the confidence of the people after the famine that killed about 8 million of the country's population, and ignited the Ethiopian revolution.
The military leaders overthrew the emperor and formed a temporary military government for Ethiopia that suppressed the demands of the nationalist movements.
February 18, 1975: The Tigray People's Liberation Front was officially formed in the city of Mekele, Tigray, and started with a group of men with only 4 rifles, and motivated by an ethno-national awareness derived from the accumulating demands of the Tigrayan population against the successive central authorities in Ethiopia.
The front was distinguished by its strong organization and discipline, and it sought to strengthen its ranks and lead the armed struggle against the military authority.
February 3, 1977: Left-leaning officer Mengistu Haile Mariam takes power in Ethiopia.
1988: A conference was held in Sudan, which included representatives of 14 armed Ethiopian organizations, and these organizations announced that they would fight to overthrow the rule of dictator Mengistu.
The leadership of the coalition called the "Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front" was given to Meles Zenawi, the leader of the Tigray Front, because their forces were the most trained, armed and organized, and with the help of the Eritrean rebels were able to repel the attack of the Ethiopian army and seize equipment.
May 28, 1991: Tigray fighters took control of Addis Ababa under the banner of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, and installed Meles Zenawi as president, and Tamirat Laineh as prime minister, who is also a Tigrayan national.
Meles Zenawi.. an iron fist
August 22, 1995: Meles Zenawi becomes prime minister. Officially, the People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is in power in Ethiopia, but the Tigray People's Liberation Front is the one that actually holds the decision.
- After the war with Eritrea (1998 - 2000), Zenawi, supported by Western powers, began a purge campaign in the ranks of the Tigray People's Liberation Front to eliminate any opposition voice, and singled out the government.
August 21, 2012: Meles Zenawi died suddenly, leaving a front suffering from "deficiencies, rigidity and rampant corruption", according to observers.
- After the death of Zenawi and the election of his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, who belongs to the Southern Ethiopian Peoples Alliance, the protest situation began to rise over the Tigrayan control.
- Hailemariam Desalegn was chosen by the People's Revolutionary Democratic Front as prime minister, but he did not have the legitimacy of the armed struggle, and he was not from Tigray and did not control the security and military apparatus that the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) maintained.
Despite the rapid economic growth in Ethiopia, the control of the Tigrayan people for nearly 30 years, the lack of freedom and rampant corruption, all of this fueled resentment, especially among the Oromo and Amhara nationalities, which led the anti-government demonstrations.
- Groups led by the Oromo - the ethnic group that represents about 40% of the country's population - began to get fed up with the way power-sharing in the central framework.
- The incident of the central government granting some of the Oromo lands (south of the capital, Addis Ababa) to investors, represented the spark that sparked popular protests that continued to subside and escalate again during the years from 2015 to 2017.
February 2018: Protests lead Hailemariam Desalegn to resign.
- The People's Revolutionary Democratic Front chose Abi Ahmed as his successor, an Oromo, in devotion to the decline of the hegemony of the Tigray People's Liberation Front.
2018..the year of reconciliation
- April 8, 2018: Abi Ahmed called for an urgent solution to the border dispute between the Ethiopian regions of Oromia (southern) and Somalia (southeast), which subsequently ended a border crisis between them that has been inflamed since September 2017, causing deaths and the displacement of hundreds. From Oromia to the neighboring region of Harar, according to the federal government, the two regions are semi-autonomous, and are affiliated with the Ethiopian Confederation.
May 6, 2018: Parliament voted by majority to lift the state of emergency imposed in the country on February 16.
- June 7, 2018: Abi Ahmed made the first change to the Chief of Staff and the Director of the National Security and Intelligence Service, in amendments that are the first of their kind in 17 years, a point that the Tigrayans considered targeting them as a nationalist, considering that the Chief of Staff and the Director of the Security and Intelligence Service since the arrival of the Revolutionary Front Ethiopian People's Democracy to power in 1991 remained their share.
June 22, 2018: The Ethiopian opposition in Eritrea announced the abandonment of the armed resistance and the suspension of its military activities.
Abi Ahmed had accompanied, in early June, on his return trip from Cairo, two senior leaders of the opposition Oromo Liberation Front, which is based in Eritrea.
July 5, 2018: The Ethiopian parliament removed the armed opposition movements “Qunbub Sabbat”, “Oromo Liberation Front” and “Ogaden Liberation Front” from the list of terrorist groups in the country announced by the government in June 2011.
July 20, 2018: Parliament approved, in an extraordinary session, a general amnesty law for individuals and groups under investigation, or those convicted of treason, undermining the constitutional order and armed resistance.
- September 9, 2018: Berhanu Nega, head of the opposition Qanbot Sabbat movement, returned to Ethiopia from the United States, accompanied by more than 250 leaders and members of the movement, after nearly 13 years he spent fighting the Addis Ababa government from Eritrean lands.
A week before that date, fighters from the Ethiopian opposition coalition, which is made up of the "Kenbot Slept" movement and the "Ethiopian National Front", returned to the country.
Abi Ahmed has marginalized the Tigray People's Liberation Front in the corridors of all ministries and within the intelligence and police system, as the Front's elements were removed from key positions, and many of its officials were prosecuted for corruption, and some of them were arrested.
- When Abiy Ahmed, the son-in-law of the ruling coalition within one party, decided the Tigray People's Liberation Front moved to the opposition and retreated to Tigray, where it restored popular legitimacy in defiance of Addis Ababa.
The front is based in its area on about 250,000 paramilitaries and militants, according to the International Crisis Group, and is believed to have weapons seized from the federal army bases in Tigray.
- The front proved that it possesses an arsenal of long-range weapons and sufficient capabilities to use them when it launched missiles towards the airports of Amhara and Asmara (the capital of Eritrea).
- The Front is still influential within the security and military apparatus, and it has allies from the Tigrayans and other nationalist groups.
Postponing the elections.. the beginning of the spark
The dispute between Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray region escalated when parliament approved a request from Abiy Ahmed to postpone the general elections that were scheduled for June 2020, and to extend the term of the Prime Minister, which expired in May 2020.
Tigrays considered the measure unconstitutional. Soraya Ibrahim, a Tigrayan speaker of parliament, announced her resignation during a speech festival in the capital of Tigray (Mekele).
- Ibrahim’s resignation was followed by other resignations, and the Tigray People’s Front held its conference in June 2020, during which it announced that it would organize elections in the region individually as scheduled, and asked the Central Elections Committee to supervise its elections.
After it was organized and about 2.7 million voters participated in it, the central government refused to recognize it, considering it illegal and unconstitutional, and the Tigray regional government responded that it does not recognize the central government as an unconstitutional body.
September 2020: The central government's decision to stop financial transfers from it to the Tigray region represented the most extreme type of escalation between the two parties, and the region considered it a declaration of war against it.
October 2020: Tigray demanded the international community to intervene in the crisis, then followed that up by declaring that it was under a military threat from the central government, which described what is happening in Tigray as a rebellion.
Armed clashes and mutual accusations
- November 2, 2020: The armed clashes began between the two sides, with each side accusing the other of starting it.
November 4, 2020: Abi Ahmed ordered a military response to an attack he described as "treacherous" and said it had targeted federal army camps in Tigray.
Abi Ahmed blamed the Tigray People's Liberation Front, which the movement denied, saying that the rumors of an attack on the Ethiopian forces in Tigray were just a pretext to invade the region.
November 6, 2020: As fighting intensified, Abe dismissed the army chief, whose top commanders are from Tigray tribes.
November 9, 2021: Ethiopia launched air strikes on Tigray, and Abiy said the operation would end "quickly" and that his opponents would "inevitably lose".
The intensification of fighting led to tens of thousands of people fleeing to neighboring Sudan, while the United Nations and the African Union called for an end to the fighting.
War crimes and ethnic cleansing
November 13, 2020: The United Nations warned of the possibility of war crimes in Tigray, and neighboring Eritrea sent troops to Tigray to support the Ethiopian forces, but Addis Ababa denied this.
- November 22, 2020: Abi Ahmed announced that his forces are advancing towards Mikkeli, the regional capital.
- November 28, 2020: Heavy bombardment targeted Mekele, and Abi Ahmed declared that the military operations were "completed".
November 29, 2020: The Ethiopian army announced its control over the city of Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, indicating that the military operation was carried out with precision to ensure the safety of civilians and institutions.
February 2021: Amnesty International accuses Eritrean forces of killing “hundreds of civilians” in Aksum in November 2020.
March 2021: AFP documented a new massacre by the Eritrean armed forces in the village of Dingolat.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken urged Eritrea to withdraw, describing the violence in western Tigray as "ethnic cleansing".
March 23, 2021: For the first time, Abi Ahmed acknowledges that the Eritrean forces entered Tigray, indicating the possibility that elements of these forces were involved in atrocities committed in the region. The next day, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission announced that Eritrean soldiers committed a massacre against more than 100 civilians in Aksum.
Abi Ahmed went to Asmara to meet with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, and announced that Eritrea had agreed to withdraw its forces.
About a week later, Ethiopia announced that the Eritrean forces had "began to leave" Tigray, but the United Nations announced on April 15, 2021, that there was no evidence of the withdrawal of these forces.
Food crisis and looting
- With growing international outrage, AFP obtained government documents showing that Eritrean forces are looting and preventing food aid from entering.
May 2021: US President Joe Biden calls for a ceasefire, stressing the "need to stop" human rights violations.
June 2021: The World Food Program announces that 4 million people face a food crisis in Tigray, including 350,000 at risk of starvation.
June 21, 2021: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expresses “grave concern” at reports of “serious violations” in Tigray, and announces that it has received “credible reports” that Eritrean forces remain deployed in the area. .
June 21, 2021: Ethiopian elections are held and Tigray is excluded from the due date.
June 22, 2021: At least 64 people were killed and 180 injured in an Ethiopian air strike targeting a market in Togoga, according to a local health official. The Ethiopian army stressed that the attack targeted rebel fighters, and the United Nations called for an urgent investigation.
June 25, 2021: MSF announces the killing of a Spaniard and two Ethiopian staff working with it in Tigray.
Announcement of a truce .. and the re-election of Abi Ahmed
June 28, 2021: With the advance of the Tigray Defense Forces, the interim administration appointed by Abi Ahmed in Tigray, the provincial capital of Mekelle, left, marking a turning point in the conflict.
- The federal government declared a "unilateral ceasefire", which the Tigray Front forces agreed to "in principle" but pledged to continue fighting if their conditions were not met.
June 29, 2021: The Front announced the restoration of control of the regional capital, Mekele, and began pursuing the Ethiopian forces, which had already withdrawn from the city.
- July 13, 2021: Announcing the results of the legislative elections, in which Abi Ahmed achieved a landslide victory, thus guaranteeing that he will remain in office for a new 5-year term.
The forces of the Front launched a new offensive and announced that they had taken control of Alamata, the largest city in the region, in the south, and that they had advanced in the state of Amhara, the second largest region in Ethiopia in terms of population. The Blue Nile River originates from the region, where is Lake Tana.
October 31, 2021: Tigray forces announced that they had allied themselves with forces from the Oromo region and that they advanced south and captured Disi, Kombolcha (the closest point to the Ethiopian capital) and their airport and could advance towards the capital, Addis Ababa.
November 1, 2021: Abi Ahmed accused foreign groups of participating in the fighting with the militants of the Tigray Front, and the parliament of the Amhara region declared a state of emergency and suspended work in all government institutions in the region.
November 1, 2021: Addis Ababa declared a state of emergency throughout the country, calling on residents to organize to defend the city by taking up arms and defending the capital's neighborhoods.
November 3, 2021: Oda Tarbe, a spokesman for the Oromo Liberation Army, which allied last August with the Tigray People's Liberation Front, said that the entry of the fighters of the army allied with the Front to Addis Ababa is only a matter of weeks, not months.
November 3, 2021: Abi Ahmed pledged to thwart the transformation of the country into something similar to Libya or Syria.Keywords: