Addis Abeba — Birhanu Julla, the Chief of General Staff of Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), delivered a televised statement on Monday, July 19, 2021 addressing multiple issues including the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), reasons behind the withdrawal of defense force from Tigray and 'redlines' that will force the military to return to Tigray including the preconditions set to accept ceasefire.
The General opened his remarks by congratulating the Ethiopian people for the successful second round filling of GERD. "Since its inception, the dam was purely designed to generate hydroelectric power that Ethiopia needed badly to build industries and alleviate poverty, "he said. He reiterated that the riparian countries, Sudan and Egypt, should understand the fact that Ethiopia was building the dam to help its people's need for electricity without harming the neighboring countries."
He addressed the successful filling of the dam, without affecting the natural flow of the river, which according to him was a great achievement to let Sudan and Egypt know the GERD would not impact them.
He expressed his appreciation for the people of Ethiopia who were helping the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF). Gen. Birhanu highlighted that the year was characterized by internal instabilities that resulted in displacement, and killing of many people. "The people of Ethiopia, the defense force and regional security forces have reached a turning chapter to culminate efforts though future works and hopefully will prove successful," he said.
He further argued that current challenges were mainly driven by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) whom he referred to as 'Junta', a term used in government correspondence to refer to TPLF. He added, "TPLF is the mastermind behind havoc and instabilities in Ethiopia, it had planned in advance and worked immensely in using its internal mercenaries to disrupt the country by displacing, and killing people. This group has continued its evil acts since then."
He argued that the government displayed patience in handling the situation and further argued that TPLF who he now called "the militant group" was beating war drums, violating the constitution, building military power, challenging the government and began the war when they launched an attack against the North Command. He explained, "We entered in this war because the defense force, which has been protecting the Tigray people for 22 years, was attacked by the TPLF. We had no choice other than war to set the kidnapped personnel free, return the looted ammunition and control a rogue group."
Gen. Birhanu explained that accomplishing the objectives of their mission equaled withdrawal from the region. He added, "The federal government's decision led us to stay in Tigray region to ensure the peace and security of our Tigray people and to rebuild basic infrastructures that were destroyed by TPLF., despite being accused of being rapists, killers, human rights abusers and aid impeders." He expressed dismay at the international community who he accused of echoing TPLF's propaganda while disregarding the efforts done by the federal government to help the people of Tigray region.
He explained the federal government's decision to announce a unilateral ceasefire saying, "Knowing the fact that people cannot cultivate and operate their daily lives in conflict areas, we left Mekelle and Tigray. Because the government is more responsible than the terrorist group (a designation given to TPLF by the HoPR and used widely in government communications) is. The unilateral ceasefire was decided and we accepted the order to withdraw from the region."
Gen. Birhanu also underscored that the withdrawal of the military is 'a price paid for peace' while also explaining that the military needs time to rehabilitate, retrain and reorganize. "We are strengthening ourselves by the time the government gave us." he said
He stressed that the ENDF was ready to carry orders from the federal government. He advised, "If TPLF worries for the Tigray people, it has to drop all its preconditions to a ceasefire and come to negotiation." He explained that the ENDF was under the command of the federal government and carried its orders, he also called on the people of Tigray to stand against the TPLF, arguing that all atrocities were of its doing.
The Ethiopian government passed a unilateral ceasefire declaration on June 28, 2021 and withdrew its military from Tigray citing the need to let the people of the region benefit from the cultivation season. The TPLF, which has been designated as a "Terrorist Group" by the House of Peoples' Representatives (HoPR), on the other hand proposed seven preconditions to come to ceasefire negotiations following which conflicts erupted between the Amhara regional state and the TPLF.
Gen. Birhanu concluded his remarks by warning TPLF of severe consequences if it continued its attack and opted to use force saying, "The ENDF is way more prepared, stronger, experienced and well equipped. We are waiting for an order from the federal government that the people of Ethiopia gave recognition for." AS