Thursday, April 25, 2024
HomeOpinionHow Did Ethiopia So Badly Miscalculate Its War with Tigray? (Kebour Ghenna)

How Did Ethiopia So Badly Miscalculate Its War with Tigray? (Kebour Ghenna)

Editor’s note: Kebour Ghenna writes “How Did Ethiopia So Badly Miscalculate Its War with Tigray?” Is the war against Tigray? His article appeared first on his personal Facebook page

Kebour Ghenna _ Tigray
Kebour Ghenna (Photo credit : Addis Fortune)

By Kebour Ghenna

A mission to rid the country of “Terrorist TPLF” is leading Ethiopia in tragic directions. As we approach the 1st anniversary of TPLF’s attack on the Northern Command, I cannot escape this sad conclusion: The Government of Ethiopia, and the nation as a whole got nearly everything about its response wrong, on the big issues and the little ones, leaving today the people of Ethiopia more afraid, more confused, and more alone in the world.

Miscalculating the war?

A miscalculation by the Abiy Administration transformed the uneasy relations between the Tigray Regional State leaders and Abiy Ahmed into open hostilities. Abiy’s military planners have conducted the war by miscalculation. They erroneously estimated their adversaries’ military power, mobilization capabilities, and reaction of the international community. The result has been a tragedy of miscalculation, putting into question the unity of the whole country.

This war is an identity-power driven war, where both parties are more interested in consolidating their personal power than in state-building. In such wars there are direct and indirect costs of war, that the indirect costs are far greater than the direct costs, and that the costs of war endure long after a formal political peace is agreed. And yet, relatively well to do Ethiopians who should have known better, have fully embraced the war, accepting blindly three myths about this military campaign as truth:

Myth no.1 – It’s going to be a ‘short war’.

Remember both the French and Germans in 1914 also believed the conflict would be short, but World War I lasted four years and took millions of lives. The same can be said about the Afghan or Iraq wars or the Ethio-Eritrean war. They zig zagged, they took longer time to end, were much more expensive, much bloodier, much more horrific than anyone thought at the beginning.

Myth no.2 is all about ‘We are the mighty’. Ethiopia’s past victory over Fascist Italy encourages this myth. People believe Ethiopia has one of the best army and air force in the continent. Many also believe that will be enough to defeat an enemy. But that’s not enough. You’ll need at least plenty of courage, which the country has aplenty, but also great war generals. Which we seem to have in short supply. As they say: a good general can make bad army look good!

Myth no.3 is the idea that ‘Armies go to war’. In the case of Ethiopia, the army didn’t go to war, the nations did.

The long-term damage resulting from the Abiy Ahmed administration miscalculations is quite significant. While part of the damage is physical, even more significant is the mental damage amongst the people in the region and the population at large. Ethiopia’s future political structure is also looking hazy, and its feeling of isolation obvious. It should now be clear that Ethiopia can only be secure if it achieves lasting peace not just with Tigray, but with all the other regional states. Weakened by this war, it is difficult to see how PM Abiy Ahmed emerges unscathed from this episode. More deeply, whether the PM stays or goes, it remains to be seen whether Ethiopia will learn from this misadventure and embark upon a serious attempt to sue for peace. Sadly, I can’t escape concluding the “enemy” that we are fighting are ourselves!

Years of negotiations are better than war.

The powers-that-be have chosen war (or ‘law and order operation’, whichever way you want to call it) to settle the current internal disputes and build the country’s unity. But guess what? History tells us most internal wars, as opposed to interstates wars, end with the extermination, expulsion, or capitulation of the losing side. Civil wars rarely end in negotiated settlements. In fact, groups fighting civil wars almost always chose to fight to the finish unless an outside power stepped in to guarantee a peace agreement. Studies show between 1940 and 1990 55 percent of interstate wars were resolved at the bargaining table, whereas only 20 percent of civil wars reached similar solutions.

What to do?

The answer is straight forward, negotiation or mediation is the only way out to save hundreds of thousands of lives to a senseless war. This war is not beyond compromise. Let’s not get stuck into a game of deadlock. There is no compelling reason why ‘enemy brothers’ would forgo negotiations in favor of potentially lengthy battlefield contests.

Of course, many may laugh at this suggestion… or ignore it completely. Or they may find it difficult to control their anger… until it’s too late to prevent the fragmentation of the country.

In any case, coming back to the topic of negotiation, IF the government wants to reduce the chance that peace talks will signal weakness to opponents or domestic constituencies, one strategy is to begin back-channel negotiations out of the public view. That may allow parties to reach agreements before the stage when their publics would support protracted negotiations and compromise. The Israeli and Palestinian negotiation in Oslo, out of the view of the pubic, is a good case to learn from. A similar secrecy shrouded the negotiations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for Iran.

In the end, deciding not to negotiate directly and indirectly harm – rather than help – Ethiopia.

Remember Yugoslavia!

To publish article on borkena, please send submission to

Join the conversation. Follow us on twitter @zborkenato get latest Ethiopian News updates regularly.Like borkena on Facebook as well. To share information or for submission, send e-mail to



  1. Dear Ato Kebour Ghenna,
    Of course you have the benefit of a hindsight!
    Puzzling is your statement “Years of negotiations are better than war.” Of course everyone knows peace is preferable to war! The question is how do you make peace with an entity whose history and only mission for existing is to “manufacture war?” Even if it meant going to hell! I am quoting Tplf leaders. I don’t know what you were up to in Addis all these three decades Tplf run the show. I mean turning hotel basements and private homes for torturing chambers! Sorry to interrupt you but go ahead and tell us how you go about making peace with Tplf who turned down the Patriarch of Ethiopia (that it appointed) leading a 50-persons mediation team!

  2. Dear genius,

    If you were in Abiy’s position on november 4, what would you have done when 80% of your army was attacked by a rogue group? Of course genius as you are, you would probably say that you would make sure that would never happen in the first place …through negotiation ! So let’s talk a little bit on the art of negotiating with TPLF. Yeah we know how good a negotiating partner is TPLF looking back at its history although it has this vexing tendancy of taking everything and giving back nothing in return. Btw did you have a chance to look at the laundry list preposterous pre-conditions it put forth in order to start negotiation with the government? Like Tigray having her own foreign affairs department and no federal security personnel in Tigray? Fortunately irresponsible people like yourself are not conducting business on behalf of Ethiopia.

  3. It is disingenuous and patently opportunistic ኣልኩ-ባይ/ኣስመሳይ of Kbur Gehenna to suggest negotiations with the TPLF, ( the fascist occupation force) which had rebuffed it on several occasions prior to the all-out attack on the unsuspecting Ethiopian army garrisoned to protect them.
    The systematically enfeebled armed forces led by equally spineless non-commissioned Oromo officers, ludicrously dubbed “general,s” , not only lack the requisite skills to control the unruly traitors, but they are OLF to their core as they are avowedly anti-Ethiopian. The slaughter of thousands of unarmed Amaras, Afars and their dislocation by millions, seemingly is of no concern to him.
    His attempt to draw parallels between Ethiopians, bid bring to justice fascist Tigres under TPLF and the Franco-German war is incongruous.
    Woyane Tigres/TPLF, is Ethiopia’s mortal enemy that needs to be crushed or be brought to justice . Whether they end up on the gallows or be given several life sentences, Kbur Gehenna and his ilk will witness once the day of reckoning beckons.

  4. The donkey told the tiger, “The grass is blue.”

    The tiger replied, “No, the grass is green .”

    The discussion became heated, and the two decided to submit the issue to arbitration, so they approached the lion.

    As they approached the lion on his throne, the donkey started screaming: ′′Your Highness, isn’t it true that the grass is blue?”

    The lion replied: “If you believe it is true, the grass is blue.”

    The donkey rushed forward and continued: ′′The tiger disagrees with me, contradicts me and annoys me. Please punish him.”

    The king then declared: ′′The tiger will be punished with 3 days of silence.”

    The donkey jumped with joy and went on his way, content and repeating ′′The grass is blue, the grass is blue…”

    The tiger asked the lion, “Your Majesty, why have you punished me, after all, the grass is green?”

    The lion replied, ′′You’ve known and seen the grass is green.”

    The tiger asked, ′′So why do you punish me?”

    The lion replied, “That has nothing to do with the question of whether the grass is blue or green. The punishment is because it is degrading for a brave, intelligent creature like you to waste time arguing with an ass, and on top of that, you came and bothered me with that question just to validate something you already knew was true!”

    The biggest waste of time is arguing with the fool and fanatic who doesn’t care about truth or reality, but only the victory of his beliefs and illusions. Never waste time on discussions that make no sense. There are people who, for all the evidence presented to them, do not have the ability to understand. Others who are blinded by ego, hatred and resentment, and the only thing that they want is to be right even if they aren’t.

    When IGNORANCE SCREAMS, intelligence moves on.

  5. Dear writer: You started your article with a wrong premise. You wrote that Abiy Ahmed’s war on Tigray began when the Tigray region attacked the Northern Command. This lie has been disproved by the international community. The war was long planned, in fact, the planning was underway for over a year. That is the reason national and international forces were arrayed against Tigray from north and south. Eritrea had mobilized its forces on the border of Tigray. Amhara militia were ready to attack for months. Somalia sent her force via Eritrea long before Tigray attacked the Northern Command. Tigray attacked the Northern Command and the war begun must be myth #1 for your information.
    Yes, the enemies of Tigray miscalculated. They could not understand the Tigrayan resolve because none of them is well versed in history or sociology. If you dare to bring peaceful resolution to this armageddon, tell the truth first.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here