Soldiers in the Ethiopian National Defense Force have arrested Sebhat Nega and eight other current and former high-ranking officials Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the ongoing clash with the regional militant group.
Fana Broadcasting Corporate, a private news outlet seen as supportive of the ruling Progress Party (PP), described Nega as “the mastermind behind the destructive strategy of the TPLF junta”. He was said to be hiding in a “ravine” when he was found on Friday, January 8.
Nega is presently in his 80s. His sister, Kidusan Nega, a former Speaker of the Tigray regional state council was also arrested.
The other arrested TPLF members included former allies of departed Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, himself a member of the TPLF during the time he was alive. One of them, Abadi Zemo, was a former Ethiopian Ambassador to Sudan and a member of the TPLF junta political wing.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has described this stage of the clash with the TPLF as the “last phase“.
A nation-saving war
Ethiopia’s communications since the altercations began on November 4 appear to recognize that the country is fighting both a war of guns and identity. The TPLF has been Tigray’s regional government since the last decade of the 20th century and it is seen as the political organization encapsulating Tigrayan identity.
The region of Tigray, a vast hilly and arid area, is named after the Tigrinya-speaking Tigray people, Ethiopia’s fourth-largest ethnic group who are less than 10% of the country’s people.
In spite of the relatively small number of Tigrayans in the country, the TPLF has shaped post-Cold War Ethiopia more than any other political organization in the country.
In 1991, the militant group-cum political party led a coalition of militias and movements to overthrow the communist People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. After that, the group was part of governing coalitions, and at a point produced a prime minister in the late Meles Zenawi.
Due to disagreements with Ahmed‘s Progress Party in 2019, the TPLF left his governing coalition.