Friday (December 4th): Ethiopia: What is the truth?

Debretsion Gebremichael

Name? Debretsion Gebremichael

Westphalian identity? Ethiopian/Tigrinya

Age? 70

Why is he in the news? A few days ago, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed claimed victory over the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) in the intrastate armed conflict. Gebremichael, the leader of the TPLF, has gathered his troops in the mountains around the capital Mekelle and announced the beginning of a guerilla war. 

Why do we care? We have been rather involved with Ethiopian internal politics and its influence over the region these past few months. But the statement that made us flinch to write this daily was when Debretsion Gebremichael claimed that Eritrean soldiers had crossed the border to support the central government and that they were looting the city…Both Ethiopia and Eritrea already denied these claims. 

Why should you care? In the 1970s, Gebremichael played an essential role in fighting the brutal communist Derg regime; ruled by Mengistu Haile. During the conflict, he launched  a covert bush radio station, ‘Dimtsi Woyane Tigray,’ to convert people believing in communism and to spy on the Ethiopian military. Just keep that in mind when you reread the claim about Eritrean soldiers we mentioned above. 

Who else cares? The United Nations. Ahmed finally granted the UN complete aid access to the region. Since the beginning of November, Un officials warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the region, after 45 000 Ethiopians fled into Sudan. The Ethiopian ambassador to Paris claimed that the TPLF was responsible for this crisis and that it took one month for access to be granted for the “security of UN workers.”

Any further comments? The way both parties try to dominate the international public agenda is intriguing. Debretsion Gebremichael is trying to position the TPLF as a liberation front fighting an arbitrary Ethiopian government. Meanwhile, Abiy Ahmed and his government are doing everything in their power to blame the TPLF for the escalation, while blocking communication to the region …

Joshua Dario Hasenstab

General Coordinator