Who is the General behind Tigray’s success?

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For the second time in his life, he was involved in an armed uprising against the Ethiopian government in the mountains of Tigray, according to Alex de Waal.

The commander of the Tigrayan forces, General Tsadkan Gebretensae, described the author as one of the best men of his generation in terms of military strategy.

The 68-year-old graduated from Addis Ababa University in 1976 with a degree in Biology and joined the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). At the time, the rebels were at war with the government of Mengistu Haile Mariam.

His reputation, organizational skills and how he earned the confidence of the fighters made him within years one of the most prominent men in the rebel ranks.

In May 1991, Gen Tsadkan, a leader of the TPLF and pro-Eritrean forces, took control of the capital Addis Ababa and ousted Mengistu.

He succeeded in keeping the TPLF forces occupying the capital secure and maintaining law and order. Three days after entering the capital on 28 May 1991, government employees were paid their dues.

The invasion of Gedo

For the next seven years, Gen Tsadkan, spearheaded the rebuilding of the Ethiopian army. At that time he was promoted to the rank of General.

He returned to his studies, earning an MBA from the Open University in the UK.

At the time, there was a high level of insecurity in the Horn of Africa. The general sent the Ethiopian military to the Gedo region of Somalia in 1996 to fight al-Itihad, a prominent Islamic group, which has bases in the region.

He has also secretly deployed troops inside Sudan to support rebels against now former President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.


Gen Tsadkan has long believed that Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki poses a significant threat to Ethiopia, a claim rejected by many in the TPLF leadership.

The general was Ethiopia’s military strategist when his country’s war with Eritrea erupted in 1998. It was a fierce battle that killed nearly 80,000 people on both sides.

Gen Tsadkan wanted Ethiopian troops to enter the capital, Asmara, but the plan was rejected by then-Prime Minister Meles Zenawei.

After the war, there were strong divisions within the TPLF leadership. Meles Zenewai fired Gen Tsadkan, then commander of the Ethiopian army.

For a time, he was unable to adapt to life in public. He later got a job with the UK Agency for International Development. He also became a businessman, setting up a wine factory in his hometown of Raya, western Tigray.

Welcoming Abiy

Some of his TPLF colleagues have criticized him for welcoming Abiy Ahmed as Ethiopia’s 2018 prime minister. He said at the time that he was ready to work with AEthiopia’s Abiy Ahmed.

In 2019 he was part of a group trying to mediate between Abiy Ahmed and the TPLF, but left a year ago, saying the prime minister was not committed to resolving the dispute peacefully.

When the pressure on the Tigrayan authorities began, the general moved to Mekelle.

In November 2020, the war in Tigray began. Gen Tsadkan, who appeared to have sidelined the internal rift with the TPLF, then joined the resistance group.

Many young people outraged by the violence in their region, then begin to also join the rebellion. Arms were also taken by senior figures who had previously opposed the TPLF regime.

The Ethiopian government, which has accused the general and other officials of high treason, has now ordered his arrest.


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