The Aftermath of the War and the Impossible Future

Radio Erena: 05 July 2021

Wars are the wombs of our impossible tomorrows. The recent war in Tigray was not an exception as it paved the grounds for a difficult if not entirely unmanageable environment of cohabitation.

The sweeping recapturing of Tigray Defense Forces fighters of their region’s capital Makelle took many by surprise. Only those who kept a close eye on the military confrontations between the federal Ethiopian army and the T.D.F fighters knew that an enormous happening is at doors. The Jubilation of the capital’s residents who received the fighters with ululations and dances made no doubt of the neat victory and the squashing defeat of the government forces.

Under the dense smokescreen of victory claims and counterclaims, it is advisable to check the original objectives of warring parties to understand how many of these objectives were really achieved; and, to disperse the smokescreen and discern the victors from the vanquished.

When Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched his military operation on November 4, last year, he codenamed it ‘Operation Law Enforcement; the objectives of the operation he declared were: To restore the rule of law in the Tigray region; To spread the power of the Federal State; To present T.P.L.F ‘junta’, who were made responsible for the lawlessness, to justice. Finally, and chiefly, to reintegrate the restive region into the motherland.

Judging from the outcome of the war, none of these objectives had been achieved. To begin with, the spreading the rule of law, the authorities need full control and effective administration. In the case of Tigray, the popular resistance war made it impossible for the army to have full control over the region. On the other hand, the first appointed puppet administration had to resign for failing to carry out its duties.

The second one had to flee the capital; but before leaving it, it emptied the banks’ coffers to deny the T.D.F forces the cash.

Regarding the objective of presenting the T.P.L.F ‘junta’ to justice, as Abiy Ahmed wished, it didn’t happen as the active leaders of the resistance are still at large, despite the elimination of key figures in the T.P.L.F leadership. As for the reintegration of Tigray in the Ethiopian State makeup, this appears to have been lost forever, as the region is actually de facto independent from Ethiopia.

This final objective is central to the war and to the future of the region as it raises a difficult question, which will consequently have difficult and different responses at the same time, will the Tigray region be part of Ethiopia in the future?

If a knotty and painstaking political compromise is going to bring back the lost Tigray region to Ethiopia, it will ultimately be at the expense of the short-lived political carrier of the immature Abiy Ahmed, as Tigray leadership will not consider working with the enemy. To dissuade Tigray people from separation, the international community will also need to address the pressing security issues in the Northern flank of the region; mainly against its archenemy, Eritrea’s Dictator Isaias Afwerki. Therefore, any appeasing compromise may forcefully eject both allies from the political scene.

Before reaching such an impossible compromise, the Tigrayans will question the federal state’s diplomacy: will it represent them abroad? They will also question the state’s bureaucracy, army, and security apparatus, will they be reincluded and reintegrated in the federal state institutions or should they go for their own state?

A referendum like the Eritrean referendum in 1993 might be deemed essential for the future of the region. If such a referendum is carried out successfully and opted for an independent state of Tigray, that wouldn’t completely remove the challenges facing the region. Whatever the difficulties that will face the new nation, they wouldn’t be as threatening as the war launched by the giant federal state which considered them not only as non-citizens; but also called in in the conflict a foreign power (the Eritrean troops) to subdue them.

The winning leader Debretsion Gebremichael in his recent interview with the NYT noted bitterly that if “they”, referring to Ethiopia’s peoples and government, “don’t want us, why should we stay”
Earlier, in his message to Tigray people after the recapturing of the capital, he confirmed: “From now on, we will have our policy”, “we will also have our own diplomacy if the need be.” He added. To what extent will his future policies and diplomacy be independent? This remains to be seen.

Finally, to keep writing about the accelerating current events is as difficult as trying to write some history for the present. Yet, a new and deeply injured Horn of Africa will emerge from the rubble of the war.

By Fathi Osman