Seyoum Mesfin (TPLF member) killed by Ethiopian troops, how was he killed …

For two decades, as foreign minister, Seyoum Mesfin was Ethiopia’s face to the world — a personable and soft-spoken diplomat who brokered peace in neighboring war-torn countries, delivered speeches at the United Nations and helped establish his country as a weighty African power.

Seyoum Mesfin killed
Seyoum Mesfin (TPLF member) killed by Ethiopian troops in the Tigray region war

That distinguished career came to an ignominious end last week when Ethiopian soldiers tracked down Mr. Seyoum, now labeled an enemy of the state, and killed him in a muddy and remote corner of the mountainous north of the country. The government said he died in a shootout, but Mr. Seyoum’s allies say he was executed.
Mr. Seyoum, 71, was the most prominent casualty yet of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s 11-week-old war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.

The main target of Mr. Abiy’s military campaign is not a ragtag group of provincial rebels, but the politicians and generals of Tigray, who ruled Africa’s second-most populous country for much of the past three decades through their political party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or T.P.L.F.

Now Ethiopia’s former rulers are on the run in their Tigray heartland, and on the defensive against the forces they once commanded. Since Jan. 7, Ethiopia’s military has killed or captured at least 47 people from a most-wanted list of 167 senior leaders of the T.P.L.F., including four of the party’s nine-member executive committee, according to Ethiopian state media reports.

When Mr. Abiy came to power in 2018, his government quickly unseated many of these T.P.L.F. leaders, who over 27 years had overseen impressive economic growth, but ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist. Several were charged with corruption and human rights abuses, and some of them fled or retreated to their home base in Tigray.

Mr. Abiy has portrayed his military campaign as a law-enforcement drive against Tigray’s fugitive politicians, who are backed by their own seasoned military force. The Tigrayan leaders went ahead with a regional election in September, in defiance of Mr. Abiy’s order to postpone the vote due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He said he launched his military operation on Nov. 4 in response to an attack on a federal military base in Tigray.

Mr. Abiy has portrayed his military campaign as a law-enforcement drive against Tigray’s fugitive politicians, who are backed by their own seasoned military force. The Tigrayan leaders went ahead with a regional election in September, in defiance of Mr. Abiy’s order to postpone the vote due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He said he launched his military operation on Nov. 4 in response to an attack on a federal military base in Tigray.

“The government is engaged in a stabilizing mission for a month now while it continues to bring to justice perpetrators,” Billene Seyoum, Mr. Abiy’s spokeswoman, said in a statement.

But the T.P.L.F. says that Mr. Abiy, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for resolving a long-running conflict with Eritrea, is revealing himself as yet another power-hungry autocrat. Thousands of people have died in the fighting, by most estimates, and the handful of aid workers who have been permitted to enter Tigray report human rights abuses, burned refugee camps, looted hospitals and a swelling humanitarian crisis that could lead to mass starvation.

Refugees in Tigray are “emaciated, begging for aid that is not available,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement last week.

Despite Mr. Abiy’s recent military successes, the swift and bloodless victory he once promised in Tigray remains far from his grasp. The T.P.L.F. has retreated to the mountains, alongside thousands of heavily armed fighters.

Fighting has raged across the region in recent weeks, according to U.N. security reports seen by The New York Times. Human rights groups have shared accounts of atrocities against civilians, including plunder, sexual violence and killings.

And as Mr. Abiy ramps up his assault on the T.P.L.F., brushing aside international pleas to start peace talks, experts warn that he risks boosting public support for the rebels inside Tigray, and plunging his country deeper into a protracted conflict with an enemy that is unlikely to give up easily.

The T.P.L.F. “is an organization in which the guerrilla ethos of not bowing to external pressure, even when cornered and pressured, is very much in its DNA,” said Rashid Abdi of Sahan, a Kenya-based conflict analysis group specializing in the Horn of Africa. “They have said they will die to the last person. People should not underestimate that.”

Continue story @ Source: The New York Times

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