Abiy Ahmed: Why I withdrew ENDF from Tigray
ADDIS ABABA | For the first time after the withdrawal of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] from the rebellious Tigray region, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has given in-depth reasons for his actions, despite conflicting information move.
In a televised statement Wednesday, Ahmed said his administration declared a ceasefire in the Tigray region to "focus on other national priorities," adding that the decision to leave Mekelle was made to "avert a scenario where the military sees the people as enemies."
A unilateral ceasefire was declared on Monday and was subsequently followed by the withdrawal of ENDF troops and those from Eritrea. Still, the Tigray Defense Forces [TDF] insisted that it had crushed the army and taken over all territories occupied by the federal government.
Earlier, a joint presser from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ENDF noted that the decision to withdraw from Tigray was informed by "an attempt to address the major concerns of the international community for cessation of hostility, unimpeded access to the region, and the withdrawal of Eritrean troops."
And Abiy Ahmed, whose administration has struggled with ethnic violence and secessionist movements, said the government had spent close to $2.2 million in the Tigray war "outside the military budget" and slightly more than Tigray's annual budget, thus straining operations.
“All we got in return was being blamed for creating hunger, allowing Eritrean troops, communication blackout, and impeding humanitarian access,” he said.
The nature of the conflict, he noted, changed over time, arguing that what started with a conventional army transformed into a scattered insurgency after the military completed operations within three weeks, effective November 2020.
With time, he said, members of the army were even attacked by civilians while, in some instances, they faced hostility even from the priests who were seen "holding guns." ENDF was pursuing TDF, which the government labels as "terrorists"...
“This sentiment seeped into the majority of the members of the military,” the PM said, “They started viewing everyone they see as the enemy.”
“Priests were seen holding firearms and persuading people to take up arms,” he said, further explaining how graveyards were used to store firearms. He also accused civilians of sharing aid food with the armed group. He indicated that the people who were seen celebrating the recapture of Mekelle are combatants waiting for a chance to attack.
According to the PM, the ENDF had no plans of occupying Mekelle, the regional administrative capital of Tigray, which was the center of the conflict. To him, the city hosted the government and has immense resources, not worthy of destruction.
“Military wise Mekelle is no longer a gravitational center,” the PM said, adding, “The city has no more significance than that of Abiadi, Shiraro, or Beshasha.” He underscored the need for the media to set the records straight and keep away from ‘the enemy’s narratives.
The PM warned TDF against the occupation of Western Tigray, which Amhara people predominantly occupy. The Amhara regional forces were involved in the Tigray genocide, thus necessitating a factual statement by TDF which hinted at plans to expel Amhara people from Western Tigray.
“The people of Armachiho, wolkayit, and Tsegede had been resilient in the face of challenges for the last 30 years while identifying themselves as Ethiopians and people of Bege Midir.”
“We chose to retreat and give the people of Tigray a period of reflection.” he said, adding, “We have retracted our missiles and arms from the region. Last year’s threats are no longer.” He concluded by vowing that no one would defeat Ethiopians and being Ethiopian.
Through Lt., General Bacha Debele and State Minister Rediwan Hussien had said the withdrawal of ENDF was to give access to humanitarian teams to the Tigray region. However, they warned that the army would go back to Tigray if "needed" any time.
Moreover, the Ambassador said the ceasefire would ‘help the people of Tigray to reflect on the pros and cons of colluding with a terrorist group to fight the Ethiopian troops who were providing protection and humanitarian aid in the region.’
“The government declared the ceasefire because the Ethiopian army was not ready to exchange fires with people in Tigray who have been misled by the ethnically charged propaganda of the TPLF,” Redawan said, urging the international community to ramp up humanitarian aid to the people of Tigray and to pay attention to TPLF’s threats to launch attacks against the Amhara region and Eritrea.
General Bacha Debele, on his part, stated, “Mekelle has ceased to be the center of gravity that is capable of posing a threat to the nation and the federal government.” He refuted the claims that the ENDF was expelled from Mekelle by Tigrayan forces saying, “The group was defeated in a Three weeks swift conventional war while it was armed to the teeth, but now its military, administrative and organizational structure is obliterated.”
TDF has warned of systematic war against "enemies," arguing that they will "pursue them to whichever place for the sake of Tigray people." The team has retaken several towns it lost in November last year following clashes with the national army and Eritrea.