In brief

U-turn in Tigray War as TDF forces drive Ethiopian army out of Tigrayan capital

Weakened federal government declares ceasefire

The Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) announced yesterday that they were in full control of the Tigrayan capital Mekelle, after their recent offensive forced the withdrawal of the Ethiopian army from the city.

It is a dramatic turn in the course of the war, which since November 2020 is pitting the TDF —which includes the forces of Tigray’s former ruling party, the TPLF— against the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies and Amhara regional forces.

The TDF had lost control of all Tigrayan towns months ago. After that, different Tigrayan regions felt under the control of the Ethiopian army, the Eritrean army, and Amhara forces, with the TDF regrouping in rural areas.

After losing Mekelle, the Ethiopian government declared a ceasefire until September. The move is understood as a sign of weakness on the part of the Ethiopian army.

The TDF meanwhile said its troops will not stop until they regain control of all Tigrayan territory.

Tigray is one of Ethiopia’s federated states. The TPLF held power in the Ethiopian government from 1991 until 2018, when reformist and current Ethiopian president Abiy Ahmed came to power. In 2020, a constitutional crisis erupted between the federal and Tigrayan governments, which eventually led to the Ethiopian army’s military intervention in the territory.

In the past, the TPLF had called for the establishment of an independent state in Tigray. For a fuller explanation, see this analysis published in Nationalia.

The war has caused an estimated 1 million displaced people and refugees. Numerous human rights violations have been reported, including sexual abuse against women, particularly by the Ethiopian and Eritrean troops.