This week’s news from Ethiopia casts more shadows than lights, both in terms of its reliability and the reputation of the various actors. On the one hand, in Tigray it seems that the TPLF has decided to release more than 4,000 prisoners of war and at the same time a lot of food aid is finally arriving, for the second week in a row. On the other hand, in Addis the federal government has decided to begin a gun registration program in Amhara to curb the growing power of the Fano militias while Tigrayan sources accuse Abiy of preparing to build a new $1 billion government building.

However, some of these reports have been denied, while for others there is still no third-party confirmation, and since propaganda is an integral part of the conflict, doubts abound.

The Tigray government, through spokesman Getachew Reda, let it be known on May 20 that as many as 4208 prisoners of war will be released. Of these 401 are women of whom an unspecified number were pregnant at the time of capture, an atrocity that an independent body should investigate but if confirmed would put the federal government in a bad light. However, the TPLF said it would hand over the prisoners at the border to the International Red Cross, which, however, through its spokeswoman for Africa, Alyona Synenko, denied having received such a communication.

The Tigray government makes it known that the decision was made in consultation with the mediator sent by the African Union Olusegun Obasanjo, in any case neither he nor the federal government have commented on the fact.

As for Tigray, moreover, the World Food Program says that more than 10,000 tons of food aid arrived this week in as many as 163 trucks, the largest convoy since the beginning of the conflict. The news was bounced by the government agency Fana Broadcasting while confirmation from the TPLF is still awaited.

In Amhara, however, it appears that the alliance between Abiy Ahmed and the regional elite is over: numerous arrests of military personnel and activists have occurred and are still ongoing this week. The federal government has promulgated a decree requiring the registration of firearms in the region within four days; the official version is that it wants to decrease banditry in the area, but the move is clearly aimed at mapping and disarming the Fano militias, involved in numerous human rights abuses according to some NGOs and the Amhara’s real armed wing in the conflict. However, neither the TPLF nor the federal government has commented on the incident; the end of the alliance would still be a watershed in the conflict.

As for Abiy, moreover, Tigrinya sources say that preparations are being made for the construction of a new $1 billion government building: news that we hope is merely propaganda but would be disconcerting given the famine and the amount of displaced people in the country after 18 months of conflict.


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