News from Ethiopia in recent weeks from the no-holds-barred conflict between government and Tigrinya forces is very confusing, and war propaganda from the two main sides puts the situation in a kind of fog of war. A fog that cannot be cut with a knife but that only time will be able to thin out and at that point the situation on the ground will be clear, even though the conflict will probably be over at that point.

After the advance of the TDF forces seemed unstoppable a few weeks ago, after the raid of a drone in Mekelle – repeated this week – now it seems that the government forces after weeks of torpor have awakened. Prime Minister Abyi Ahmed has even gone to the front, or so it seems from the images that were released on Friday, November 26. Abyi, in military uniform, is in the company of several soldiers in an area that could be, or so it is believed, Afar. Troop morale is high according to the Prime Minister but more importantly, it appears that government forces have succeeded in conquering Chifra in Afar.

Chifra had been conquered about a month ago by Tigrinya forces and is located west of Millè, the town that Tigrinya forces have been trying to capture for weeks. At the same time, it seems that the TDF has captured a city further south, approaching Addis Ababa which is now 220km away. This is the information gathered in the exclusive report released to Al Jazeera Ethiopia by the government forces, here the reporter Mohammed Taha Tewekel, was able to witness closely the recapture of the city.

The reporter states that the Tigrinya forces “were driven out of this strategic area” but that at the same time he could hear “gunfire coming from all directions.” He also witnessed first-hand the brutality of the conflict, seeing the streets littered with bodies as well as stores and even mosques destroyed.  Government forces then claimed that they are now advancing towards the cities of Bati and Kombolcha, also recent conquests of the TDF.

It appears that Tigrinya forces, at the same time, have changed their strategy and are focusing more on the town of Debre Birhan. This is seen as the last major defense outpost blocking access to Addis Ababa.

However, none of these reports have been confirmed and neither side has made any statements with respect to the opponent’s (supposed) successes. In addition, new laws have been enacted by the government, which prevent the publication of military movements or battle results without government approval. This, combined with the difficulty of access to forms of communication does not allow a safe and constant flow of information regarding the conflict. At the same time, the twitter account of TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda, usually prolific of information, has also remained rather silent in the last two weeks.

Some analysts, as reported by the BBC, say that the Tigrinya forces may be over stretched on the ground and therefore vulnerable to counterattacks, making the action of government forces even more plausible.

Are we witnessing yet another frontal shift in the conflict that erupted in Tigray last year? The government forces seemed to be powerless, and the general mobilization as well as the state of emergency declared by the government seemed to suggest that the army was also in great difficulty. Was that perhaps another war propaganda move? Or is this counterattack itself a move to muddy the waters of a contender that is about to give in? The next few weeks will tell us what the true situation on the ground is.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here