Ethiopia’s Ambassador To China Calls Tigray Crisis “Law Enforcement”

Ethiopia Tigray Crisis
Credit: The African Stand

For the past few weeks, attention on Ethiopia has been focused more on its ongoing Tigray crisis than the Coronavirus cases in the country. A conflict between the government of Ethiopia and forces in its northern Tigray region has thrown the country into turmoil. 

Speaking to CGTN, Ethiopia’s ambassador to China, Teshome Toga Chanaka, said the ongoing crisis is not a civil war, but enforcement of the law. According to the Ambassador, “this is not a civil war, though many media try to portray the current limited military operation as a civil war.”  There was a military operation that followed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s accusation of the Tigray regional government’s deadly attack on a military base on November 4. Ambassador Teshome described the military action as a “law enforcement” that was carried out in a limited area and will not affect other regions in the country.

According to CGTN news, the Ambassador explained that the objective of this law enforcement operation was first to bring law and order to the Tigray region. A second objective was that those who commanded and directed this attack should be brought to account and should be accountable for their actions. A third objective was to bring them to the court of law. 

Remarking on the 72 hours ultimatum given to the Tigray regional government to surrender before a military offensive on the city, the Ambassador said, “I think there’s no conducive environment to sit around the table right now until the military operation is concluded. And we hope that the military operation will be concluded very soon.” 

The Ambassador rejected claims that the ongoing conflict will deescalate into other countries in the region when he said “I don’t think there will be a spillover effect of the current situation in the Horn of Africa for two reasons.” The Ambassador believed that it was an internal conflict with a very clear target and a very limited operation that does not cover the entire country.

Emphasizing the Ethiopian government’s commitment to restoring peace in the country, Ambassador Teshome said, “we have a responsibility and obligation to protect all civilians regardless of their origin, both Ethiopians and foreigners, and we are trying to do that. We’ll also try to protect and preserve property both public and private, both domestic as well as foreign ones, also the projects owned by foreigners.”

The Ethiopian Tigray Crisis

On 4 November, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive against regional forces in Tigray in response to an alleged attack on a military base housing government troops in Tigray. 

The escalation came after months of feuding between Abiy’s government and leaders of Tigray’s dominant political party. It is believed that Abiy’s pursued reforms in the country were met by a Tigray resistance leading to a political crisis in the country. Tigray’s leaders see Abiy’s reforms as an attempt to centralize power and destroy Ethiopia’s federal system.

BBC reported that in September 2020, after the central government had postponed national elections because of Coronavirus, Tigray defied the central government to hold its own regional election. The act was described as illegal by the central government who in response suspended funding for and cut ties with Tigray. Tigray’s administration said this amounted to a “declaration of war.”

 Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has indicated that the government will launch the “final phase” of the army’s operation in the northern region of Tigray after weeks of fighting. He said the military would try not to harm civilians in the regional capital Mekelle – a city of 500,000 people – and urged residents to stay at home. 

UN human rights chief Michele Bachelet told BBC the city’s inhabitants were in “deep peril,” saying that “we’re really alarmed by the dangerous situation particularly because of the civilians trapped in Mekelle…potential for serious violations of international humanitarian human rights law.”

As Africa’s second-most populous country, Ethiopia is pivotal not only to stability and socio-economic progress in the Horn of Africa but also to Africa’s development. Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed and thousands have been forced from their homes as Ethiopian forces have seized various towns in Tigray from the TPLF.

Who is responsible for the restoration of peace and security in the current Ethiopia conflict? And what should be China’s role in this restoration process?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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