Debretsion warns that TPLF is ready to “defend itself” if negotiation does not bring any solution
Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) leader, Debretsion Gebremichael, on Saturday had an interview with the BBC.
He made claims that there had been an indirect talk with the government, and that it is making “progress.” A clip of the interview does not seem to be available.
However, Will Rose, BBC Africa editor, shared what seems to be key contents of the interview. He wrote on Twitter, :
” TPLF chairman, Debretsion Gebremichael, tells BBC they’ve started talking with the Addis government – ‘shuttle communications and discussions’ has led to ‘signs of improvement’ but waiting for this shuttle diplomacy to bear fruit”
In what seems to be an expression of doubt whether his organisation will obtain the desired outcome from the indirect talk he is claiming, Debretsion, however, “said if necessary they are ready to fight on to defend the rights of the people of Tigray. He described life in Tigray as “hell” as a result of the blockade, with people dying due to lack of food or medicine.”
The TPLF has a claim over Wolkait, which used to be part of Gondar, which the TPLF incorporated as part of Tigray following the fall of Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam government in 1991. It also makes claims about Raya, an area in the South of Tigray that used to be part of North Wollo administrative zone, which was similarly incorporated to Tigray after 1991.
The TPLF leader also made an indirect claim about the presence of Eritrean troops in the Tigray region and that his organisation has made their withdrawal as one of the things to be obtained from the alleged “indirect talk.”
The question, “who is leading the ‘indirect talk’? ” is something that is unclear at this point. A rumour has been circulating on social media that The US government is leading.
The Ethiopian government has been denying, to date, that there is no negotiation, whatsoever, with the TPLF.
Meanwhile, the TPLF launched a fresh military attack in the Afar regions of Ethiopia earlier this week, displacing over 220,000 residents from the towns it has been shelling with artillery.
The National Security Council, a body that is chaired by the PM and with membership for the Defense Force -among others, had a meeting on Friday this week. What it called “TPLF provocation” was one of the issues that was discussed. Temesgen Tiruneh, Director of NISS, said that the Defense Force was given direction to reverse the TPLF attack but no further detail was given.
TPLF’s new passion for negotiation
When the Ethiopian government declared a unilateral humanitarian ceasefire in June 2021, the idea of ceasefire was a laughing matter to the TPLF.
Spokesperson of the organisation, Getachew Reda, called it “a sick joke.”
Then the TPLF started to launch an extensive military campaign with the aim to cut off Ethiopia’s import and export supply line through the Afar region on the one hand and march to the capital Addis Ababa on the other.
The rebel group had been enjoying a tacit support from the United States and its allies and there was an anticipation (through a combination of military, political and media campaign) that the TPLF would be able to control Addis Ababa – one of the factors why the TPLF rejected negotiation with the government. It did not happen.
What rather happened is that TPLF lost battles after battles in the parts of Afar and Amhara regions which it militarily controlled in a span of four to five months after the Ethiopian Defense Force withdrew from the Tigray region of Ethiopia.
In as little as two weeks, TPLF lost all the areas that it controlled and had to retreat fast to the Tigray region, where it had been reorganising its forces before its latest attack in the Afar region.
At the same time, it was pushing for negotiation after the devastating battle. Many Ethiopians, from social media engagements in different platforms, are demanding only TPLF to be disarmed and brought to justice for several massacres that it carried out in Afar and Amhara regions, not to mention other crimes.
The United States has demonstrated consistent interest, and it could be understood from the statements the State Department has been issuing, in making TPLF a relevant political actor in Ethiopia.
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