In the last two months, the Ethiopian conflict, after turning one year old, has experienced tragic and epic moments. The advance of the TPLF, and its conjunction with the OLF forces, seemed unstoppable, the siege of Addis Ababa a matter of weeks and in fact the Western powers had invited their citizens to leave the country. The governmental counter-offensive seemed to remain a ghost hovering over the figure of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as exemplified by the call to arms for all Addis citizens, but instead the attack of the federal forces forced the TPLF to a hasty retreat and marked a great victory.
Abiy Ahmed’s own announcements led to the assumption that the TPLF’s defeat was final and that the federal advance, after the frontal upheaval, could not be stopped. However, this is the second time that the Prime Minister has declared victory against the TPLF, while the reality on the ground seems to point more towards a stalemate rather than a victory.
Information filtering out of the country, as we have already pointed out, is however partial and few in virtue of the little freedom granted to journalists. On December 16, another journalist, Amir Aman Kiyaro, a freelancer associated with the Associated Press, was arrested along with two other local colleagues, Thomas Engida and Addisu Muluneh. The Associated Press executive director said the “charges are baseless” while the Committee to Protect Journalists called for the immediate release of the three colleagues. The federal republic says instead that they violated state of emergency and anti-terrorism laws by trying to contact a group designated as terrorists, which suggests they were trying to report both sides of the conflict. It is still unclear who this group was.
Meanwhile there are echoing reports of human rights and right of war abuses by both sides during the conflict, as well as ethnically-motivated attacks, arrests and expulsions against Tigrayans. The TPLF meanwhile claims that the federal air force, attacking Alamata, has hit many civilians and in particular children.
If silence has fallen on the conduct of hostilities there are however, as evidenced by these latest news, other aspects that immediately take its place in the international debate and the situation seems to worsen in an almost self-destructive spiral, for the credibility of the forces in the field but especially for the Ethiopian population. In fact, in this situation the silence that makes the most noise is not that of war operations but that of the famine still in progress.