Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Tigrayan officers clear the tables

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1223 06/10/2007
The recent promotion of a number of officers to top ranks went largely to Tigrayans.

Four of the six generals promoted to the rank of major general and ten of the seventeen colonels promoted to brigadier general at the end of September are Tigrayans, members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the governing coalition). Their promotion strengthens still further the control Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the TPLF have on the armed forces. All the more so since on the same occasion, 400 officers in the Northern Command, overwhelmingly Tigrayans, were also promoted during a ceremony at Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray Regional State. The Ethiopian Army Chief of Staff, Samora Yunis, also a Tigrayan, was promoted to the rank of general even though he has not even had a modern military training.

One notable exception is Abebaw Tadesse Asres, an Amhara, who was raised to the rank of lieutenant general, no doubt to please the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM, a component in the ruling coalition). Meanwhile, just two Oromo officers, General Birhanu Julla Gellelcha and Colonel Getachew Shiferaw Feyissa and one officer from the south of the country, Colonel Negussie Lemma Dibaro, benefitted from this wave of promotions.

These measures will aggravate tension between Tigrayan non-commissioned officers and their Oromo and Amhara colleagues. Such tension already put in an appearance in an officers’ meeting of the 4th infantry division last week. Particularly as the Ethiopian army is still bogged down in Somalia where operations are led by the Tigrayan General Seyoum Hagos (one of those just promoted) and a resumption of fighting in Eritrea is still a possibility.