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With the capture of Mekele, capital of Tigray, from the hands of TPLF insurgents, the Ethiopian prime minister on Saturday proclaimed the government’s victory over the rebel province. But the latter did not say their last word: rocket fire from Tigray rang out in Eritrea, reviving fears of a regional conflagration.

A decisive step has been taken in Ethiopia. After four weeks of armed conflict between the central power and the insurrectional forces of Tigray, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced in a tweet posted on November 28 that military operations in the dissident northern region of the country, Tigray, were over and that the armed forces were in full control of the town of Mekele, ending a war that devastated the Horn of Africa.

Does this mean that the fighting that has been raging since November 4 is now a thing of the past? In any case, this is not the opinion of the leader of the rebel forces, Debretsion Gebremichael. “The brutality of these invaders can only strengthen our resolve to fight them to the end,” asserted the leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in a message to Reuters. Asked if that meant his troops would continue fighting, he replied, “Certainly. It’s about defending our right to self-determination.”

The prosecution of the fighting in question

Addis Ababa did not respond immediately. In a statement, the Prime Minister simply indicated that the police were still looking for rebel leaders. “Police forces will continue their efforts to apprehend TPLF criminals and bring them to justice.”

At this point, “the intense bombardments which took place on Mekele, suggest that the Tigrayan forces have decided to leave the city and to continue their resistance by other means, estimates William Davison, British journalist specializing in Ethiopia, contacted by France 24. But to date, we do not know either the intentions of the Tigrayan forces, nor their combat capabilities “.


It remains extremely difficult to verify the positions of one camp or the other given that all telephone and Internet access to the region has been cut, and that access has been closely monitored from the start. fighting between government forces and the TPLF.

Humanitarian crisis

One thing is certain, by withdrawing “into the mountains to continue the fight, the rebels spared the civilian populations of the capital and this is very important, underlines Marc Lavergne, specialist in the Horn of Africa and research director of the CNRS: The speed of the victory of the government forces is a fairly reassuring sign for the population, which did not have to suffer too much human or material damage. ”

However, a humanitarian crisis is already raging in Tigray where more than a million people have been displaced within the region. “There is a shortage of food and medicine, gasoline and other basic necessities,” explains Maria Gerth-Niculescu, France 24 correspondent in Addis Ababa. The government claims to have started distributing food in the controlled areas. by the national army and that a humanitarian access road will be established under the supervision of the Ministry of Peace and in cooperation with the UN agencies.However, no date has been set and NGOs still cannot reach In the region.”


Addis Ababa goal: marginalize the TPLF without humiliating the Tigrayans

The plight of the refugee populations in Sudan remains equally problematic. The refugees should not return to Ethiopia immediately, according to Marc Lavergne. “It should not be believed that the people of Mekele or those who live in the mountains had the means to cross hundreds of kilometers to reach the Sudanese borders, indicates the French researcher. The Tigrayans who fled to Sudan are populations who have were installed near the borders quite a short time ago. […] The question of their return should therefore be made, not from the areas from which they left, but in the interior of historic Tigray, which has not yet been pacified. ”

For now, we do not know the outcome of the conflict. “Abiy Ahmed’s intention is not to put Tigray on fire and bloodshed, abounds Marc Lavergne. His project is to restore the central state while respecting the regions and preserving the ethnic federation which has long been dominated. by the Tigrayans. For him, it is now a question of marginalizing or eliminating the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray, without oppressing or humiliating the population of Tigray who constitutes an essential element of the general component of Ethiopia. “


A regional conflagration ?

Thousands of people are estimated to have died during the fighting and nearly 44,000 refugees have fled to Sudan. And the conflict does not seem to be over. In his wake, he awakened fears of a possible increase in violence with Eritrea, Ethiopia’s neighbor and sworn enemy of the TPLF. Besides, on Saturday night, Asmara [capitale de l’Érythrée], Was for the third time the target of rocket fire from Tigray, noted American diplomatic sources. The TPLF, which claimed responsibility for the first shot, accusing Eritrea of ​​lending a hand to the Ethiopian army, did not take responsibility for the last two assaults. Ethiopia and Eritrea did not react.

Dark prospects that could permanently tarnish the reputation of Abiy Ahmed, haloed, barely over a year ago, with its Nobel Peace Prize. For now, the Ethiopian Prime Minister is trying to keep face. “The government denies having had bellicose intentions, concludes William Davison on the antenna of France 24. For the central power, it is the Tigrayans who are responsible for the war, not them. ”

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