MAP: The green area is Tigray occupied by TPLF.
The ongoing conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region has been fueled by support from the United States. It is yet another proxy war which has brought great suffering to thousands of people.
The so-called “international community” is once again proving itself to be an expert at prolonging war. Its role in the nearly two-year long conflict in Ethiopia has emboldened the armed insurgents – that have taken hostage the entire population of Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia – in hopes of overthrowing the central Government.
Who is the TPLF?
The insurgents are referred to as the TPLF, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The TPLF was in power from 1991 to 2018 and acted as a brutal U.S. proxy in the Horn of Africa — violently dividing and suppressing majority voices in Ethiopia, helping demonize Eritrea in the north, and keeping Somalia a fractured, fragile state.
While it’s been ousted out of power in Ethiopia, the TPLF still has a lot of diplomatic leverage on the international stage. The group appears to be using the massive amount of wealth it took from the Ethiopian people to lobby its narrative — that it is fighting for “liberation” of the minority ethnic Tigrayans in the north. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Ethnic Tigrayans which make up roughly 5% of the country’s population of 120 million – are simply collateral in the regime-change plans. There are several reports that many people are escaping Tigray for refuge in other parts of Ethiopia because their lives are threatened if they do not fight in the TPLF's war.
When it was sidelined from the Government after years of protests, the TPLF took with it a large number of the country’s armaments. It also weaponized the influential relationships it had made in its 27 years in power — to get diplomatic cover even while it pushed child soldiers into war. The Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom is a member of TPLF’s Executive Committee and has no problem using his authority to lobby for the group publicly, under the guise of caring for the people of Tigray.
What is probably most frustrating for many Ethiopians — is not just that they are under attack by a group from within, but that the group gets diplomatic cover from the U.S. and other Western powers who continue to equate the TPLF with the democratically elected Government of Ethiopia.
U.N. Aid Used for War
In a stunning revelation last week, the United Nations World Food Programme announced that TPLF insurgents stole 12 U.N. fuel tankers. The group used that stolen fuel to break a months-long truce – and invaded the neighboring Amhara region, restarting the war against the Ethiopian Government and its people. The Ethiopian Government says the militias even arrested U.N. staff who resisted the fuel looting. This isn’t the first time insurgents in Tigray took U.N. humanitarian supplies and redirected it for war.
Last September, Ethiopia said hundreds of U.N. aid trucks went into Tigray and were not returned. Instead, they were used to transport the militias of TPLF into the nieghboring Amhara and Afar regions, where there were reports of rapes, indiscriminate killings and total destruction of healthcare facilities. Of course, Dr. Tedros had nothing to say about the healthcare facilities destroyed. The United Nations did not hold the TPLF accountable either, and instead continued to levy pressure solely on the Ethiopian Government to allow unfettered humanitarian aid access to the TPLF-occupied region.
The Ethiopian Government did allow unfettered humanitarian aid access and once again, it was burned as TPLF used it to transport militias for war. The Ethiopian Government held up its end of the bargain after being pushed and assured by the “international community.” U.S. Envoy for the Horn of Africa Ambassador Mike Hammer even went to Tigray in early August and met with TPLF leadership. They looked like old buds, taking selfies for example.. But that trip did not stop the TPLF from restarting the war weeks later. Many Ethiopians suspect that it actually legitimized and emboldened the TPLF to do just that.
Yet again, the US-led “international community” has proven to be a failed broker for peace in the Horn of Africa.
TPLF’s History of Weaponizing Crisis: Live Aid 1985
You may remember that “We Are the World” Live Aid 1985 concert and fundraiser for famine-stricken Ethiopia. What if I told you 95% of the $100 million raised was used by the TPLF rebels at the time to buy weapons instead of food? A rare 2010 BBC investigation revealed this damning information and it is corroborated by high-ranking former TPLF officials.
The money Americans thought they were raising to help the poor hungry children in Ethiopia was used to buy weapons. Those weapons eventually allowed the TPLF to overthrow the communist Government of Ethiopia at the time.
What can we glean from the Live Aid 1985 fiasco? Sometimes and maybe often, stories of humanitarian crises in other countries are not always what the media tells you they are. Even when there really is some sort of humanitarian crisis – sometimes, the people that caused it are doing it for international attention – usually using that attention to garner diplomatic cover and manufacture consent for intervention. In today’s case and in the case of 1985, it’s TPLF doing just that. Now, there really was a famine in Ethiopia in the 1980s, but reports suggest that most of the money raised in Live Aid was used to buy weapons – not to feed victims.
Mainstream Media as a Tool of War
As an Ethiopian American journalist whose parents are from the Tigray region, it is stunning to me what is left out of the so-called mainstream media narrative. Here are some fundamental facts that everyone should understand about the conflict in Ethiopia.
The Western proxy TPLF started this war by attacking mostly non-ethnic Tigrayan members of the Ethiopian National Army Defense Forces, during the early morning hours of November 4th, 2020. While the United States was preoccupied with elections, the TPLF was preoccupied with its regime-change plans in Ethiopia. The soldiers killed had been serving the country for decades, were intermarried with women and men from Tigray and were an active part of the community there. It is, arguably, the most treasonous attack in modern Ethiopian history.
While people like Delaware Senator Chris Coons have in passing admitted that the TPLF started the war, Coons and much of the mainstream media often talk about the Ethiopian Government’s “offensive” in Tigray, as if the Government was not responding and defending the country after such a treasonous attack on its soldiers. Mainstream media continues to demonize the Ethiopian Government for fighting back – saying it was going after all ethnic Tigrayans in Tigray, when in fact it was responding to the ethnofacist TPLF’s treasonous attack.
Not an Ethnic or Civil War
This conflict is not about people of different ethnicities in Ethiopia hating each other. It’s not as simplistic and reductionist as the media would have you believe. It’s so much more than that. But that is the narrative the Western media wants people to desperately believe, because then it would make it just another African problem, when in fact — Western powers and external forces have been working around the clock for decades - to divide the Horn of Africa – and are still very much involved in fueling the conflict.
This is about power and control. A minority U.S. proxy which got used to dominating for 27 years told itself, if it couldn’t run the whole of Ethiopia, then it would instead destroy the country. They are trying very hard to make that happen. It has been heartbreakingly costly for the region, which includes Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia – and the struggle continues.
The Horn of Africa has said “No More” to war. No More to the international disinformation infrastructure that is dividing the people and fueling conflict. The primary obstacle to peace in the Horn of Africa is the TPLF and its Western-backed enablers.
Hermela Aregawi is an independent journalist with more than a decade of experience reporting for mainstream media outlets such as CBS, Al Jazeera America and Current TV. She founded Mela Media, a nonprofit media company, in 2021 to report news about Africa from the perspective of the people. She is also the founder of Eyes on Africa News at www.EOANews.com.