Exactly on November 4, 2021, the conflict officially broke out in northern Ethiopia, in a region, Tigray, which together with Amhara constitutes the political-cultural “center” of modern Ethiopia.
However, despite the fact that the Tigray population represents only 4% of the total Ethiopian population – the second most populous state in Africa – Tigray is also the Ethiopian military “center”. The current Second Republic, in fact, is an expression of the armed conflict which, from 1975 to 1991, brought the TPLF to power. A power that has been in free fall since the death of its historic political leader, Meles Zenawi, in 2012.
In this context, Abiy Ahmed was to represent for Ethiopia the symbol of the country’s political maturation: in fact, after the astonishing economic performance, and the death of Zenawi who was the architect, the country experienced troubled years while clamoring for more political freedoms, until Abiy. Abiy seemed to be stability, the symbol of a new political class, and an example of what the federal republic, allowed to operate freely, could produce politically. Abiy was, and the 2019 Nobel Prize confirms it, but only briefly.
A year ago, an analyst drawing the current scenario would not have been considered: the TDF has conquered the strategic area of Dessie and Kombolcha and settles about 325 km north of Addis Ababa in the town of Kemise, the OLA has joined its ranks with those of the ex-TPLF and for this Friday is scheduled, in Washington, a meeting between 9 anti-government groups to sign an alliance.
At the same time, on the government side, a state of emergency has been declared, citizens and ex-soldiers are invited to take up arms to defend Addis Ababa while the government of Abiy has also received a diplomatic slap in the face: this morning the news that the head of humanitarian affairs for the UN and the special envoy of the African Union have met with the de facto government of Tigray.
After a month from the beginning of the conflict Abiy Ahmed had announced the victory of the government front, now the government version does not change, but the situation seems totally reversed with a dangerous parallel with the Derg regime, which continued to claim to be one step away from victory until the rebels arrived 80 km from the capital: at that point Mengistu Haile Mariam fled to Zimbabwe.
Today, as in 1991, the OLF and the TPLF are together fighting on the field against the government and seem to be one step away from victory, today as in 1991, the fate of a conflict that seemed already written seems to be reversed, today as in 1991, the TPLF, and this time with Eritrea as an enemy and not an ally, seems to be an unstoppable military force. Military victory for the TPLF and other anti-government groups seems close, but is it really? Or, as with Abiy Ahmed last December, is this a Pyrrhic victory?