It will not be a blitzkrieg: Shire has fallen, Axum remains in the hands of the rebels, who, however, abandon the town of Slehleka to the enemy advance. The offensive by the Addis Ababa government troops in the Tigray region is meeting stiff resistance, as expected, given that at the disposal of the Tigrinya power group there is – say military analysts – a robust slice, perhaps half, of the Armed Forces, including armaments. The federal government of Abiy Ahmed announces that his soldiers are marching towards the Tigrinya capital, Makallé, and stresses once again that the revolt will be treated as an internal matter. Proof of this is the decision to issue 76 arrest warrants for senior officers linked to the summit of the TPLF, the People’s Liberation Front of Tigray, and the accusation of atrocities against civilians on the basis of ethnicity.
The TPLF replies that the population will not kneel before anyone and that “the Tigris is the hell of its enemies”, because “trying to rule the Tigrin people by force is like walking on open flames: the Tigris will be the sepulcher of the dictators “. Debretsion Gebremichael, elected president of the region by a vote that Addis Ababa does not recognize, he admitted to news agencies that his troops are retreating, but denies that they have destroyed bridges and roads. The advance of the government has pushed the Tigers to speak outright genocide, but the Abiy government resolutely denies any nuance of persecution on an ethnic basis, stressing that it only wants to protect order and restore national unity.
Addis Ababa has also pointed the finger at Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director of the World Health Organization: he would have tried to gather consensus and armaments in favor of the Tplf, says General Birhanu Jula, chief of staff of the Ethiopian army. The WHO leader, of Tigrinya origin, denies having taken a stand and defines himself as “color blind”, underlining the need for peace for Ethiopia.
In a heated context, some positive signs come from the moderation of Eritrea, which collected the missiles launched by the Tplf without launching reprisals, and from South Africa, which yesterday wanted a summit between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. At the center of the meeting is the question of the Ethiopian dam, which cuts the flow of the Blue Nile and irritates Cairo and Khartoum: the South African initiative could serve to defuse the possibility of an escalation, with the entry of other countries into the fighting .
The polarization of positions also worries the Rome government. Historical and economic reasons link Italy to Ethiopia, our country’s main partner south of the Sahara and a reference point for security in the entire Horn of Africa. The premier last week Giuseppe Conte he phoned Abiy to inquire about the situation, given that for now the space for a diplomatic intervention seems limited. Italy recognizes, like 200 other countries, the Abiy government, but at the same time sees with extreme apprehension the possibility of an escalation that puts the entire order of the continent into question.
A “bipartisan” position is out of place, because it would be irritating to the Ethiopian government, which rejects the idea of external mediation and reiterates that the issue is only internal. But at the same time Italy does not take clear positions in favor of Addis Ababa, and prefers to remember the support always given to Ethiopia with the other European countries, support that cannot be disconnected from the availability for peace. In other words, the government asks for moderation and suggests respect for the “rule of law”, including therefore the criterion of proportionality for the opposing actions. In short, Italy offers its offices to restore dialogue and does not exclude informal contacts also with Tigers, if this is necessary in the search for peace. “From the beginning, the Italian government has adopted a balanced approach both in reconstructing the conflict situation and in relations with the various African and international interlocutors”, underlines the Deputy Foreign Minister Emanuela Del Re. The flight from the conflict zone is also a source of concern: Del Re spoke with Sudanese minister Omar Gamareldin Ismail, announcing a package of aid that will be managed by UNHCR.