Ethiopia downplays TPLF, OLF military alliance in Tigray

Tigray Defence Force

Tigray Defence Force soldiers on June 30, 2021. Ethiopia on August 12, 2021 denounced a "destructive alliance" unveiled this week between rebels from war-torn Tigray and a group from Oromia.

Photo credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP

The Ethiopian government on Thursday downplayed a new military alliance announced by the country's two major rebel groups.

Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) on Wednesday announced inking a military alliance to overthrow Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government in Addis Ababa.

However, at a news conference held Thursday afternoon, Abiy 's press secretary Bilene Seyoum told reporters  that the alliance between the two rebel groups is not a surprise to the Ethiopian government.

She said the government is not surprised by the "unusual marriage" of these two insurgent groups which were in early May designated as terrorist entities.

She added that Thursday's public declaration of an alliance by OLF and TPLF means they are also acknowledging of working together towards further destructive activities and also indicates "terrorism is a general feature of both".

The spokesperson said the current military alliance is a testament to the groups’ efforts to destabilise the country.

Call to join army

The Ethiopian government on Tuesday officially called on all able citizens to join the armed forces to destroy TPLF "once and for all".

When asked if the national calls mean that the country's national army is facing any challenge both in numbers and in strength, Bilene said “the national call has nothing to do with the capablity or efficiency of the army”.

She said the call was to protect the country's sovereignty and the well-being of its citizens.

"The TPLF is using a number of civilians for the war. These civilians are looting, destroying property, and raping women in the Amhara region. Therefore, it requires the concerted efforts of all citizens to prevent this," she said.

The official national call for civilians to join army is seen as an indication that Ethiopia has lifted the unilateral ceasefire it declared late in June

On this regard, the press secretary said that "the national call means that the government and people of Ethiopia will employ all means necessary to prevent the terror TPLF from spiralling the country into further instability".

Counter insurgency

She further said that a counter insurgency is ongoing to thwart threats posed by the Oromo rebels in Oromia and areas bordering the Amhara region.

During the past two weeks, OLA, also kown by government as OLF-Shene, has claimed significant military victories as they reportedly advance in directions towards the capital Addis Ababa.

After OLF struck a military alliance with TPLF, the leader of the Oromo rebels, Kumsa Diriba, said "a regime change" by a military means is the only solution to resolve conflicts in the horn nation of over 110 million people.

The rebel leader, also known by the name Jal Maru, said that the coalition was "initiated by the TPLF" a few weeks ago. 

He noted that the coalition had reached an agreement on the principle of fighting against "the common enemy" especially via military cooperation.

The two sides have begun exchanging military information in accordance with the military agreement, but the leader of the Oromo militant group has said they will not fight side by side for the time being and "perhaps the time will come when both will do so".

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