TPLF Announces New Offensive in Ethiopia’s Afar State, Forcing WFP Aid Convoy to Turn Back
01:00 GMT 27.01.2022 (Updated: 11:36 GMT 23.11.2022)
© AP Photo / Gemunu AmarasingheAngesom Mezgebo, wears a T shirt and a pendent, with images of map of Tigray during a protest march to mark a year since Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's administration started fighting against the Tigray, the northernmost region in Ethiopia,Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021 in Washington.
© AP Photo / Gemunu Amarasinghe
A month after withdrawing to Ethiopia’s northern Tigray state, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has launched a new offensive into neighboring Afar state, saying they are chasing down special forces units that blocked humanitarian shipments. However, their offensive blocked a UN aid shipment, too.
The TPLF’s External Affairs Office said on Tuesday it had launched a new attack into Afar, claiming Afar President Awol Arba, “under the tutelage of the Eritrean government,” has launched raids into eastern Tigray using special forces responsible for the “systematic obstruction of humanitarian aid delivery to the people of Tigray.”
“Since yesterday morning (January 24) we have been compelled to take robust actions to neutralize the threat posed by the so-called Red Sea Afar Force, which has been organized by Awol Arba’s special police forces along with the Eritrean government in defiance of the repeated peace overtures by the Government of Tigray, as well as eminent elders in Afar,” the statement said.
The statement added that the TPLF “does not have a plan to remain in Afar for long, nor does it wish to see the conflict deteriorate further.”
According to the local information portal Afar Watch, the TPLF’s entered Afar in the northern Killbet Rasu Zone or Zone 2, through the towns of Abala and Magale, which sit on the border of Tigray and Afar.
TPLF cannot take defeat in Gassagita & Chiffra lightly, it has now opened new fronts deep into Afar region in Kilbati Rasu Zone in Abaala,Magale & Barhale towns. This not only caused deaths and destruction to #Afar people,their town,their infrastructure,safety & security issues pic.twitter.com/nNtMPuHEOT— Afar Watch (@AfarWatch) January 24, 2022
Abala was recently subjected to TPLF artillery attacks two weeks ago that forced citizens to flee, and the TPLF staged attacks on other areas in Amhara along the Tigray border as well. The rebel group, which before 2018 ruled all of Ethiopia, launched a dramatic offensive last year into Afar and Amhara states, advancing on the capital of Addis Ababa before being repulsed in December. On December 23, the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared an end to combat operations as the TPLF was pushed back into Tigray state.
A national dialogue was intended to follow, and peace overtures were made to TPLF leaders, who instead appealed to the United Nations to enforce a peace to the group’s advantage without recognizing the legitimacy of Abiy’s government - a key tenet for peace with Addis Ababa. Abiy has refused negotiations with the TPLF, which was designated a terrorist group by Ethiopian lawmakers last year.
Despite the renewed violence, the Ethiopian Council of Ministers decided on Wednesday to end the six-month state of emergency declared in November 2021 early. However, the move must still be approved by the House of Peoples’ Representatives, the lower chamber of Ethiopia’s Parliamentary Assembly.
As a result of the renewed offensive by the TPLF, United Nations World Food Program trucks carrying some 800 tons of food were forced to turn back halfway to the Tigray capital of Mekelle, the agency said on Tuesday.
“It's evident that TPLF leaders are starving people in pursuit of a perilous political game,” the office of Ethiopia’s permanent mission to the United Nations said.
However, the International Committee of the Red Cross landed its first planeload of supplies in Mekelle on September on Wednesday, carrying essential medicine missing in the region for months due to the conflict. The TPLF has claimed since November 4, 2020, the day it launched its attack on Ethiopian military forces, that Addis was orchestrating a famine in the region, arousing fury in the West after being uncritically repeated by western media outlets.
Abiy’s government admits there is a massive humanitarian crisis in the region, but says it is of the TPLF’s creation, noting that the group has seized hundreds of WFP food trucks and has used food aid as a coercive tool to encourage Tigrayan youths to enlist in the military. In a report published in early November, the UN Human Rights Office and Ethiopian Human Rights Commission documented human rights abuses by all sides in the conflict, but found no evidence of a genocide.
According to United Nations data, more than 70,000 people have fled the violence, heading across the border into neighboring Sudan, and an estimated 4 million more have been internally displaced. There is no reliable death toll for the conflict.