Juba, South Sudan,
July 04, 2021 – Ethiopian federal government forces defeated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front were on Friday paraded through the regional capital of Mekelle as they get taken into prison.
Photos posted online show many of the soldiers bowing their heads and casting their eyes downward as jubilation marred the Tigrayan city of Mekelle. Some soldiers were being carried on stretchers while others wore bandages freshly stained with blood from gun injuries.
Tigray announced victory against Ethiopian forces in late June in a stunning reversal in a civil war that has led to the displacement of nearly two million people in the Tigray region, widespread hunger, and reports that civilians were subjected to atrocities and sexual violence.
Analysts say the parade of prisoners of war served as a pointed rebuke to Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who had proclaimed in a speech on Tuesday in the national capital, Addis Ababa, that reports of his troops’ defeat were “a lie” before declaring unilateral ceasefire less than a day later.
In November 2020, Abiy had declared victory just about one month after he initiated the military operation in Tigray. The fighting that continued for seven more months produced a sharply contrasting result for the federal government.
The defeated Ethiopian soldiers have been marching for four days from the quickly established battlefield camps where they had been held since the fighting ended this week flanked by Tigrayan fighters.
A 14-year-old dashed out into the street to run alongside the column, shouting her admiration for the leader of the Tigrayan forces, calling him a “lion.”
“All these soldiers tried to kill us,” the girl, Mearge Gebroemedhin, said a few moments later, referring to the Ethiopian government forces. “But the Tigrayan soldiers showed their mercy. I am proud of our soldiers.”
While some in the crowd jeered the soldiers, the onlookers focused much of their anger on the Ethiopian prime minister, Mr. Abiy.