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Un Confidential Weekly Regional Review Threat And Risk Assessment Service: Ethiopia

UN Department of Safety and Security
Tigrai Online 10/2/2022


Northern Conflict: Overview

Armed clashes have continued across northern Ethiopia as the latest phase of the conflict entered its second month. The scale of those clashes remains unclear, though they are assumed to be intense. Overall progress by either side is, moreover, difficult to discern as information on fighting remains scant and much of what is available is uncorroborated. Current information indicates that clashes have continued in North Wello, Wag Hamra, and North Gondar zones of Amhara. Along the Tigray-Afar border, clashes have been reported from Gulina woreda (Fenti zone) and Berhale woreda (Kilebti zone). North-Western Tigray remains the centre of gravity in this phase of the conflict, apparently, with fighting reported around Tahtay Adiabo woreda (northwest of Shire) and Adi Daero (north of Shire).


Comment: The TDF goal of reaching Sudan to lift the blockade has apparently been thwarted for the time being in the face of widespread ENDF and allied attacks on multiple fronts across Tigray. Its goals have now shifted to slowing and preventing ENDF and allied forces capturing key towns across the north of Tigray and advancing towards Mekele as well as efforts to advance into Tigray via Afar, Alamata, and Addi Arkay. After over a month of fighting, the ENDF and its allies appear to be making little headway while likely suffering heavy losses of men killed and captured; the losses suffered by the TDF are likely to be very high as well. The TPLF claims that Eritrean involvement in this phase of the conflict since 30 August has been disappointing “with tens of thousands of enemy forces out of action.” It also claimed that Ethiopian forces (which the TPLF says includes Ethiopia regular troops, Republican guard units, commandos, Amhara special forces, and Amhara Fano militia, as well as reserves) have also faced disappointments, with “significant setbacks” experienced, particularly on the Tselemt (close to May Tsemre) and May-Kuhli (south of Shiraro) fronts. Unverified videos from various locations purport to show Ethiopian and Eritrean prisoners in varying numbers from dozens up to possibly hundreds if not more. The TPLF insists that a primary war aim of those arrayed against is to exterminate the Tigrayan people. While there are recurring reports of drone strikes, these have apparently not impacted the overall trajectory of the conflict and have not facilitated ENDF breakthroughs like those in late 2020.

Outlook: After over a month of fighting, the TDF is in far better shape than it was after the first stages of this conflict in November and December 2020, apparently having been better prepared for this phase of the conflict and has resisted attacks competently from multiple directions. There are currently few indications that it does not enjoy broad popular support among the population of Tigray to withstand a prolonged offensive involving Ethiopian federal, Amhara regional, Afar regional, and Eritrean national forces. Even though they have lost some border areas, Tigray forces have so far managed to localize and contain the Ethiopian offensives; in several areas they appear to have clawed back some of their losses and have prevented a speedy and clean victory. Even if the federal forces and their allies do disperse the TDF and capture Mekele, they would likely face a determined insurgency like that that forced them out of Tigray in mid-2021.


Recent developments

Beyond reports of fighting in various specific areas, claims by the TPLF on 20 September that Eritrean forces had “launched a full-scale offensive in all fronts - all the way from Tekeze through to Irob” have not yet been verified.

Current clashes appear to be concentrated at several locations:

Around Gobiye (to the northeast of Woldiya on the A2 towards Kobo Robbit) there have been conflicting claims about the current situation, though fighting appears to have been heavy in recent days. It is unclear if ENDF and allies have retaken Gobiye, though there have been two such claim time in a recent days but so far no visual confirmation.

To the northwest of Woldiya, clashes have continued in several areas with no breakthrough by either side after a month of fighting. On 22 September, heavy fighting was reported between ENDF/ allies and TDF in Kalim and Shiway kebeles, Guba Lafto woreda (to the north of the B22), North Wello zone. Clashes were also reported from Gidan woreda, to the northwest in the same zone. It was unclear if either side was making progress to their respective immediate goals: TDF may still want to cut the B22 and to isolate Woldiya while the ENDF wants to past Kobo to reach Alamata inside Tigray.


Comment: During the initial offensive in southern Tigray (of this phase of the conflict), the ENDF and its allies apparently aimed to capture Maychew but failed to advance far as efforts to outflank the TDF at Jemedo and Bisober failed. According to some sources, “tens of thousands” of ENDF and allied forces were deployed. Despite bitter fighting in a series of engagements described as the “bloodiest” in Ethiopia's recent history, the TDF quickly regained the initiative and launched a counter-offensive, pushing beyond Kobo town and then cut the A2 at Aradum. The TDF claims to have captured thousands of troops and senior officers in this fighting, and went on capture Worke, Gobiye, Doro Gibir, and Balage, and even to threaten Woldiya town. The poor performance of the ENDF on this front saw residents of Wollo flee towards Mersa and Dessie. While the main focus of combat has shifted to the north, the ENDF appears to be again trying to reach Gobiye ahead of another possible push northwards to Kobo Robbit, Kobo, and eventually Alamata. 

Un Confidential Weekly Regional Review Threat And Risk Assessment Service: Ethiopia, Tigrai


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