Two tales of a weapons plane in Tigray as fighting resumes in north Ethiopia

Wednesday August 24 2022
Tigray soldiers arriving in Mekele on June 29, 2021.

Tigray soldiers arrive in Mekele on June 29, 2021. PHOTO | AFP


The Ethiopian military claimed on Wednesday to have shot down a plane carrying weapons to the rebellious Tigray region in the country’s north.

“The plane was shot down over North Humera while crossing Ethiopian airspace from Sudan,” said the Head of Joint Operations Division at the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Major General Tesfaye Ayalew.

The military official said that the Ethiopian Air Force downed the plane around 10.00 pm local time but didn’t give further details.

“The Ethiopian Defense Forces are vigilant to guard their country against any enemies terrorist trying to undermine Ethiopia’s sovereignty,” Maj-Gen Tesfaye said.

Earlier, Redwan Hussein, the security adviser to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said that the plane was shot at in the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, while it was unloading weapons.

But Redwan’s assertion now contradicts the army’s statement.


Tigray’s tale

In response to the military statement, a senior Tigray official immediately downplayed the claims, saying it was a fabricated story.

Getachew Reda, the adviser to the Tigrayan leader, described the federal government as “clowns”.

They “are making up stories about planes carrying weapons to Tigray and one of them being shot down by their Air Force. It’s a blatant lie!”

The Tigray government external affairs office also issued a statement terming the claims as lies.

“No planes entered Tigray; nor was an imaginary plane shot down. Having already internationalised the war on Tigray, the Abiy regime is in search of a bogeyman to justify its ongoing genocidal campaign,” the statement seen by The EastAfrican read.

“The aim is to present Tigray’s campaign of self-defence as an external project, not a struggle for survival. If history is any guide, the Abiy regime is laying the groundwork for aerial assaults on Tigray.”

Tigray regional government further called on the international community to prevail on Ethiopia to refrain from its alleged planned indiscriminate attacks.

The EastAfrican could not independently verify any of the claims.

Also read: Rebels question rebuilding work in Tigray

Fighting resumes

The assertions came hours after the two warring groups resumed fighting, ending a five-month truce.

The renewed warfare came after both sides repeatedly blamed each other for the lack of progress toward negotiations to end their brutal 21-month conflict.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) said government forces and their allies had launched a “large scale” offensive towards southern Tigray early Wednesday.

But the Government Communication Service accused the TPLF of striking first, saying it had “destroyed the truce”.

UN shock

UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed shock at the renewed fighting and called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities.”

“I am deeply shocked and saddened by the news of the resumption of hostilities in Ethiopia,” he said and strongly appealed for “the resumption of peace talks between the government and the TPLF.”

Mr Guterres also called for “the full guarantee of humanitarian access to people in need and the re-establishment of public services.”

The conflict, which broke out in November 2020 in Tigray, has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and left millions in need of food aid.

Resumed fighting will jeopardise ongoing efforts to bring both sides to the negotiation table.

Read: Conditions slow Addis Ababa-TPLF peace talks

The UN’s World Food Programme said last week that nearly half the population in Tigray is suffering from a severe lack of food.

Tigray is largely cut off from the rest of Ethiopia, without basic services such as electricity, communications and banking.

- Additional reporting by AFP