News Analysis: Amhara region police chief reveals how region’s police force guided federal steel-clad mechanized forces to join “war” in Tigray

Screenshot taken from Commissioner Abere’s speech

Translation and compilation of events: By Addis Standard staffs

Addis Abeba, January 04/2021 – A speech delivered by Commissioner Abere Adamu, Chief Commissioner of the Amhara Regional State Police Commission, added a new dynamic into a cascade events leading up to the armed conflict in Tigray regional state, which broke out two months ago on November 04/2020.

In his speech delivered at the inauguration of his newly published book, Commissioner Abere narrated how Amhara regional state Special Forces, led by the region’s Assistant Police Commissioner Biset Getahun, retrieved members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) steel-clad mechanized forces stationed near Humera and commanded them to return back “to face the enemy” in the armed conflict involving the federal forces and forces under the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Commissioner Abere also revealed that Amhara regional state had “already done [its] homework,” and “deployment of forces had taken place in our borders from east to west. The war started that night after we have already completed our preparations,” he told an audience to several rounds of applause.

Cascade of heightened events between November 01 and 04/2020

Commissioner Abere’s account add to a cascade of events that took place shortly before the armed conflict broke out in Tigray. The following are the major events that took place between November 01 and 04/2020, all except for one, were reported by Addis Standard at the time.

On November 01, more than 50 civilians were killed in West Wollega zone, Guliso Werda, Gawwa Qanqa kebele of Oromia regional state in what eye witnesses said was shortly after the evacuation of members of the federal armed forces from the area. But the news of the killing has surfaced only a day later, on November 02. There was no official explanation on why the defense forces were evacuated for the area, where there is an ongoing armed conflict with members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA).

Other reports on November 01/2020 also indicate the mobilization of “16 buses” of ENDF members from a military camp in the city of Shilaabo in the Somali regional state.

On the same Day on November 01, Eritrea issued a statement accusing TPLF of obstructing regional peace and stability, and that “the TPLF led group” that has been declared “Game over” for a while.

On November 02, Tigray Region President Debretsion Gebremichael aired a 36 minutes televised message in which he said that the regional government has “prepared our military of Special Force not in need of a war, but if the worst comes, to defend ourselves.” And cautioned that Tigray region “should give attention to the situation that is advancing to a war and everyone should be ready.”  

These events were followed by a release of a statement on November 02/2020, by EU High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell on growing tension in Ethiopia in which he said: “developments in Ethiopia are a cause of deep concern. All parties as well as Ethiopia’s neighbors must act to reduce tension, eliminate inflammatory language and abstain from provocative military deployments. Failure to do so risks destabilizing the country as well as the wider region.”

On November 04/2020 Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that federal forces were authorized to militarily intervene in Tigray regional state after TPLF “took measures” and “tried to rob the Northern Command.”

On November 13/2020, Sekoutoure Getachew, a former TPLF official, said in a regional TV that TPLF forces took “pre-emptive strike” on the army’s Northern Command stationed near Mekelle, before federal forces began the military operation in the region.      

Commissioner Abere’s Speech at his book launching

Commissioner Abere’s speech was delivered at the launching of a book he wrote titled (loosely translated) “The Supremacy of the Law for Development of a County.” The video was uploaded on December 20/2020.   

Below is a direct translation of Commissioner Abere’s rare account of the first day of events which saw the participation of Amhara regional state forces from day one.  


Because it is history let me tell you what happened during this time. At the time, Amhara region police and Temesgen [Tiruneh] who was the president of the Amhara Region, already knew that this thing was going to happen, especially TPLF’s preparation, as they were next door to us. Therefore we have already done our homework, and accordingly deployment of forces had taken place in our borders from east to west. The war started that night after we have already completed our preparations.  

At that time, Assistant Commissioner Biset [Getahun], the Commander of the Special Forces, called me…and told me that the war had begun and that we were engaged. Because we had so many discussions in military languages, I told him to continue as discussed, he agreed. I then immediately called our president Ato Temesgen, and told him the news; he told me to engage and said, “Just grab on!” and I told him “I am on it.” After that we were all at work.  

A little later, Assistant Commissioner Biset (Assistant Commissioner, in the house of Police is equivalent to that of Brigadier General – and I wish I could call him as such because that is a familiar title), he called me again and told me that it was going as per our discussion.

What we have talked about was, because it is now in the past, let me make it clear for you today: what we discussed was that we had communication with those from within; with whom we had close relations, especially with those members of the Mechanized Forces stationed near Humera; we had relations with them and we have already studied how to retrieve the force to come to us if something happened. So when I and Assistant commissioner Biset say “according to what we discussed” we understand what we were saying. So he told me “things are going as we discussed.” What it meant was to make members of the steel-clad mechanized Special Forces to come to us under the protection of our Special Forces, and after they reached us, to commander them to turn back to face the enemy. So he asked me “they are coming, what do I do with them?” so I told him to divert them back face the enemy; he did it. The armored mechanized members that we provided protection and retrieved from there provided protection for our forces and the foot soldiers marched in. You all know what happened next. This is how the war started; this was the day.

In the process, after the war started and after we have allied the armored mechanized members with our forces, I called General Berhanu Jula and told him ‘General we have retrieved your forces and allied them with our forces’ and I asked him to bring down a directive of alignment; at times of war, there is this language of directive of alignment, otherwise there could emerge incidents in which allies end up hitting each other. So we needed to do that and when I told it to General Berhanu, his speech [response] was a mix of joy and doubt. Joy because we retrieved the armored mechanized forces and directed them to face the enemy; and doubt because I think he wondered how that could possibly be. That is what I understood from hone tone. In any case, I told him what was done was done and asked him to give us the alignment directive and he agreed; the war continued that way.

A few days later, General Ababaw Tadesse called me and said that he was coming to Bahir Dar and asked me to welcome him. I agreed and welcomed him. When he arrived, he was accompanied by General Belay and General Kumara. After introducing me with them, he told me that General Belay had previously returned from [Mekelle] airport after he was assigned as the commander of the Northern Command. General belay is a joyous man; and I jokingly said to him, “well you have not been able to enter by air before, but now you are going to enter on foot.” It looked like an order. He told me not to have doubt. At this moment General Abebaw pulled me aside and said, “I’m going to get in from the top in the north and you are going to hold up from here.” I told him not to think of anything. For a moment we forgot about COVID and hugged each other.

They then drove north with my car. As a matter of fact, the Generals’ enthusiasm did not look like they were going to a war, but to a wedding. I was 100% sure that we would win the war, and we won. I would like to say congratulations.

As a result, we had to wait for this season to launch this book [which took] more than a month after we thought we would. But many people are saying now it is the right time. It indeed is.

The purpose of this book was to prevent this war from happening. As I told you before, war devours us; it gets worse when it is with each other. That war could only be stopped if the rule of law was obeyed; law is obeyed only when we know the benefits of the law. AS


Editor’s Note: Commissioner Abere’s speech continues for few more minutes on the benefit of the rule of law, and ends with a special recognition and thank you to his wife and children who are residing abroad. Below is the full video of the speech and related event at the launching of the Commissioner’s book.   

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