Tigrayan rebel setbacks in Ethiopia were predictable

In December 2021, Tigrayan rebels were advancing on Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. They would soon arrive and remove the regime. Now, they supposedly have had a change of heart, and are ready to negotiate. What happened?

Apparently, Tigrayan rebels, who reject the central government's overreach into their homeland, did not see either the hypocrisy or the logistical nightmare of attempting to conquer the whole country themselves. What happened, on their part, can only be described as idiocy, and this is putting it generously.

How to win independence

Compare this with how Finland was able to fend off Soviet troops in the winter of 1939-40 and negotiate, so that it made fewer concessions to the Soviets. The Finns could not afford to withhold concessions, much less hope to march on Moscow and remove Stalin, as it would have meant the end of Finland.

The Finns have independence because they pursued a wise course. Their extreme military proficiency was used to defend the limited area that they believed they had the right to, as a nation. Their enemy came to respect their demands and not encroach, and a mutual respect was maintained thereafter, as it should be between any two nations bordering one another.

How not to win independence

Tigrayan rebels accomplished significant military victories against the central government. These were sufficient for them to make political demands and fortify themselves in the Tigray region. Instead, they chose to attempt regime-change in Addis Ababa, and may have jeopardised their chances of getting any agreement at all.

The government of Ethiopia is not likely to accept demands from what it will now see as a merciless terrorist minority bent on seizing control over the country and over, if necessary, the corpses of most of the Ethiopian population. The rebels risk resembling those in Syria, who cannot possibly represent anything more than the people of the territory under their immediate military control. Even that level of support for the rebels in Syria is doubtful, since, at their every retreat, local villagers rejoice at the return of the central government.

Foreign-backed independence?

It is when those who seek national autonomy suddenly exit their historic lands and spread violence into lands of others, that they are discredited and the foreign hand behind their ambition is exposed. Some Syrian Kurdish factions did this, withdrawing from Turkish troops and moving into the lands of the Arabs, protected still by the anti-ISIS air power provided by the US, becoming hypocrites.

The so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is a hypocritical sham, imposing Kurdish rule over Arabs and in turn representing American manipulation of the Kurds, and will fail with the eventual US withdrawal. The so-called Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which may have similar foreign backing if its critics are correct about it, risks being the same kind of sham.

One cannot support an independence movement that deprives others of their independence and their rights. As soon as the foreign hand behind its outrageous and excessive ambition is gone, such a movement risks collapse.