Let’s state the blindingly obvious: the Tigrayan forces are retreating.
Anyone who looks at a map can see that villages and towns they had fought so hard to win in recent weeks have been given up.
The Tigrayan spokesman, Getachew Reda, underlined the point in a Tweet when he said: “Speaking of stories of courage, perseverance and heroism, a #TigrayArmy unit travelled more than 158 KMs on foot in a matter of 2days and took on & dealt a mortal blow to a several thousands strong enemy contingent. Now that’s news! #TigrayShallPrevail!”
The Tigray President, Debretsion Gebremichael, said in a statement that:
“We evaluated the overall situation, both ours as well as that of the enemy, and arrived at the decision on our own. ‘We have to turn back; we shouldn’t continue in the present [course]; we have to carry out additional tasks, additional adjustments’ – it was after we identified this that we arrived at the decision…It was a tough decision but one which had to be made. We have to understand that it was a correct decision…[The decision] wasn’t made because of diplomatic pressure or through discussions. We don’t make discussions which the people of Tigray are not aware of or diplomatic activities which the people of Tigray has not accepted…This is a time of fierce struggle.”
What can we say about the current situation?
Firstly: The Tigray Defence Forces withdrew – they were neither defeated on the battlefield, nor were they routed. Anyone looking at their long supply lines would have seen they were vulnerable to attack. The withdrawal was hardly surprising.
Secondly: Prime Minister Abiy has put out a statement declaring that this is “The First Chapter Accompanied by Victory”.
This is by no means the first time he has declared victory.
In November last year Prime Minister Abiy said that the conflict had been “successfully concluded”.
In reality Tigrayan fighters had withdrawn into the hills and mountains and were mounting a ferocious guerilla campaign against the invading Ethiopian, Amhara and Eritrean troops.
It took until April 2021 for the Prime Minister to admit that heavy fighting was taking place on no fewer than eight fronts.
Then in June 2021 the Tigrayan troops were able to re-capture Mekelle, to jubilation.
What can we conclude?
We need to be patient and wait to see what happens next.
Let us not forget that the war that led to Tigrayan forces capturing Addis Ababa lasted for sixteen years (1974 – 1991).
No-one can predict how long this disastrous war will take. But one thing we can be sure of: it is not over yet.