<span class="t-location">Addis-Abeba (AFP) – </span>L'armée éthiopienne a repris cette semaine le contrôle du territoire précédemment revendiqué par les rebelles tigréens, une validation potentielle de la décision du Premier ministre Abiy Ahmed de rejoindre des soldats dans les zones touchées par le conflit. </p><div> <p>Pourtant, la façon dont le gouvernement a remporté ses victoires et ce qu'elles signifient pour une issue éventuelle de la guerre vieille d'un an restent des sujets de débat acharné alors que les combats entrent dans une nouvelle phase incertaine.
Just a month ago, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF) rebel group appeared to be going on the offensive, claiming to have captured Dessie and Kombolcha, towns on a key highway to the capital Addis Ababa. .
They reportedly reached Shewa Robit, about 220 kilometers (135 miles) northeast of Addis Ababa by road.
But after Abiy announced last week that he would lead operations on the ground, the government announced a series of victories and the rebels admitted to changing their strategy.
State media responded with triumphant wall-to-wall coverage.
“The enemy is destroyed, disintegrated,” the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said Thursday, citing Abiy.
There is no doubt that the government can claim to have “the upper hand” in specific areas, said Awet Weldemichael, Horn of Africa security expert at Queen’s University in Canada.
“Only time will tell if these can be translated into [the] the upper hand in war, ”he said.
War in northern Ethiopia erupted in November 2020 when Abiy sent troops to overthrow the TPLF – a move he said came in response to TPLF attacks on Federal Army camps.
Although Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, promised a quick victory, by the end of June, the TPLF had recaptured most of Tigray and quickly launched offensives in neighboring Afar and Amhara regions.
The rebel march to Addis sparked an international panic, with a multitude of embassies urging their citizens to leave the country as soon as possible.
</div>Pendant tout ce temps, cependant, la nature exacte de l'avance du TPLF était contestée.
“I don’t know if we need to talk about progress,” a Western security official told AFP in mid-November.
“There isn’t a huge column of tanks and armored vehicles coming down the road towards Addis. It’s more complex than that. There are infantrymen going into the mountains, they shoot and surround certain areas “but do not seem to have complete control over the towns and villages, the official said.
The TPLF also never explicitly stated that it wished to enter Addis Ababa, simply refusing to rule out such a decision.
The latest changes to the battlefield have unfolded quickly.
The government first claimed towns in Afar, near a critical highway bringing goods to Addis Ababa, then declared victory on Wednesday at Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has fallen to the hands of the TPLF in August.
On Friday, state media reported that towns on the road north to Dessie and Kombolcha had been “liberated”.
The news could be a sign that government forces, along with the thousands of new recruits who have enlisted in recent months, are fighting more than they realize.
“I was quite surprised by the government’s latest counteroffensive,” said Mehdi Labzae, a sociologist who studies land issues and mobilization in Ethiopia.
“I saw all the people who were mobilized… but the point is, I thought they weren’t trained and thought they would just be destroyed. “
The way to go
The African Union is trying to negotiate a ceasefire to prevent further bloodshed, although there has been little progress so far.
The TPLF insists it will have the advantage in all the fights to come.
“In combat, we know that there will be adjustments and a limited retreat as well as significant advances,” TPLF military boss Tadesse Worede said in an interview broadcast Friday.
“We decided that in order to reduce the problems and vulnerabilities in certain areas that we had reached, to voluntarily leave some of these places. “
For Labzae, such statements are reminiscent of the government’s announcement of its withdrawal from most of Tigray in late June – a claim that avoided military setbacks even as TPLF fighters celebrated in the streets of the regional capital Mekele.
“They were so close [to Addis]. Why would they turn around now? ”Labzae said of the TPLF.
“It means that there was something that worried them or something that was not right for them. “
One possibility, Awet of Queen’s University said, is that the government’s top air power has turned the tide – at least for now.
“Drones are said to have played a decisive role in active combat, the full extent of which we do not yet know,” he said.
“But so far, it seems they have helped stop the Tigrayan counterattacks and advances. “
© 2021 AFP