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World: In Tigray, the Ethiopian army's behind-the-scenes warfare

Starvation crisis looms as aid groups seek urgent Tigray access

  Starvation crisis looms as aid groups seek urgent Tigray access Humanitarians sound alarm for millions of people in need of emergency assistance in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit region.The fierce battles that had begun in early November between the federal government troops and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the former governing party of the northern region, were fought under the cover of a communications shutdown. Phone and internet services to Tigray were severed and journalists and aid workers were barred from entry. The ensuing conflict killed thousands of people, with at least 50,000 people crossing to neighbouring Sudan to flee the fighting, including air raids and heavy artillery.

Des miliciens Amhara, qui combattent aux côtés des troupes fédérales éthiopiennes, reçoivent un entraînement près du village d’Addis Zemen, en Ethiopie, le 10 novembre 2020. © AFP Amhara militiamen, fighting alongside Ethiopian federal troops, receive training near the village of Addis Zemen, Ethiopia, November 10, 2020

Despite the official end of the fighting in the dissident region of northern Ethiopia, on November 28, 2020, witnesses describe the massacres which continue. In the shadows, the conflict continues in Tigray and turns into a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Ethiopian authorities welcomed on November 28, the end of the war in Tigray. An law enforcement operation " for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, launched on November 4 after the attack on two federal military bases in the region by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF).

MAINTENANCE. Conflict in Ethiopia: "The risk is getting bogged down" in Tigray

 MAINTENANCE. Conflict in Ethiopia: © AFP An Amhara militiaman and member of a traditional dance group, during the preparations for the Timkat, the Ethiopian Epiphany, in the city of Gondar, January 17. For Sonia Le Gouriellec, specialist in the Horn of Africa, one can fear that the Ethiopian army will continue the war in all discretion. But the risks of the war in Tigray are also external and the actions of neighboring countries, including Eritrea and Sudan, are under scrutiny.

The situation had become tense between the capital Addis Ababa and the dissident region of the North, ruled for around 30 years by the TPLF. In September, the Tigrayans held their own regional elections, after repeated postponements of general elections by the government.

A conflict that has apparently ceased ...

In mid-January, the UN expressed concern about civilians injured and killed during the fighting in rural areas of Tigray ". The European Union, also worried, has suspended its payment of budgetary aid to Ethiopia and its 110 million inhabitants.

The conflict has already claimed several thousand lives, but it is impossible to know the exact extent in a region cut off from the world for several weeks. Water, internet and electricity infrastructure cut off ... officially destroyed during the war. The rare testimonies collected by NGOs describe the massacres, executions and rapes which continue. Because the fighting continues in the countryside, where the TPLF fighters still free are entrenched, to lead a guerrilla against the federal army.

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Des réfugiés éthiopiens qui ont fui le Tigré rassemblent leurs maigres affaires à leur arrivée au camp de Tenedba, à Mafaza, dans l’est du Soudan, le 8 janvier 2021. © AFP Ethiopian refugees who fled Tigray gather their meager belongings when they arrive at Tenedba camp, in Mafaza, eastern Sudan, on January 8, 2021.

TPLF leaders were killed and arrested but others have fled. Obviously, their leader, Debretsion Gebremichael, was not captured, ”explains Sonia Le Gouriellec, lecturer at the Catholic University of Lille. According to her, the war turned into guerrilla warfare: “We knew that the TPLF fighters, most of them former guerrillas, were not going to surrender and would take refuge in the mountains.

Isolated Tigray

Only a handful of NGOs, including Médecins sans Frontières, Action contre la Faim and the Red Cross, have been able to access the capital and urban areas. But the countryside, poorer and over which the Ethiopian army does not control, are still locked in.

According to the UN, 2.3 million Tigrayans are in need of life-saving aid out of the region's 6 million inhabitants. Most are condemned to wait or flee in Sudan, which has already hosted 58,000 refugees.

What a blind man's death says about Ethiopia's conflict

  What a blind man's death says about Ethiopia's conflict Asmelash Woldeselassie has given his eyesight, left arm and now his life to a succession of wars in Tigray.Having joined the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) around the time of its formation in 1975, Asmelash lost his eyesight when he was bombed in his hideout in the Imba Alaje mountain during the war that ended with the guerrilla movement marching into Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, to seize power from the notorious Mengistu Haile Mariam regime in 1991.

Read also. Refugees in Sudan, they denounce the massacres in Tigray

A war with deep roots ...

The coming to power in 2018 of Abiy Ahmed, an Oromo, the largest ethnic group in the country (35%), has shaken the Tigrayans (6% of the population). The TPLF had ruled the country with an iron fist since the fall of the dictatorship in 1991, in which it participated by leading years of guerrilla warfare. Ethnic tensions have not abated in the country, divided into more than 70 communities.

But it is above all the centralizing will of the Prime Minister that is feared. In order to oppose it, the TPLF slammed the door of the ruling coalition outright, to entrench itself in its region. Since then, only the military outcome has been considered.

... which involves its neighbors

Sudan has to cope with the influx of refugees, while Eritrea is under heavy surveillance. At war with Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000, the country has a grudge against the Tigrayans who were in power at the time.

Read also. In the Horn of Africa, the specter of a regional crisis

Witnesses today raise fears that the Eritrean army, has sent soldiers to fight in Tigray. Abyi Ahmed, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for ending the war with Eritrea, categorically denies.

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