Turkey’s ‘game-changer’ drones will not secure peace in Ethiopia – opinion

Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 drones have helped the Ethiopian army to take the upper hand in the year-long conflict in the country and negotiate a ceasefire with Tigray rebels, but the guns won’t remain silent for good, Ray Mwareya and Ashley Simango wrote for Newsweek on Thursday.

A sale of the popular UCAVs to Ethiopia was not announced publicly, but investigations and military logs indicate a strong possibility, the journalists said.

“The drones, mainly from Turkey, but some also from the UAE, were a game-changer,” former British diplomat Stephen Chan told the journalists, in that they allowed the Ethiopian army to avoid casualties while achieving aerial dominance without jets.

With the drones that Ethiopia obtained last year, Ethiopian forces pushed back the Tigray insurgency from the verge of encircling the capital, the journalists said.

However, the drones, while sophisticated, will not preserve the “fragile peace”, they added.

“Without honest dialogue, it’s a matter of time before the Tigray rebels find their own lethal weapons to match the government’s armory,” they said.

The current calm may fail if the government blockade on Tigray continues and some 4.6 million people in the province remain on the verge of man-made starvation, according to U.N. figures, they said. The blockade aims to prevent easy rearmament in the rebellious province, and includes food, emergency medicines and fuel.

Ethiopian government trying to finish off the rebels in an overconfident move could be its “new deadly mistakes”, according to the journalists.

Chan advised shows of goodwill, confidence-building measures and humanitarian aid on the path to a more durable peace. He added that Eritrean fighters in the country must withdraw.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has received a brief battlefield boost with the Bayraktar TB2s, but the chance should be used to fortify peace, the journalists said.

Earlier in January, Politico reported evidence suggesting Ethiopia’s use of Turkish drones in an attack that killed 58 civilians who had sought shelter in a school building.

Tigray sources report more than 300 civilian deaths by drone in the conflict, for which Ethiopia has received a warning from the United Nations.

Turkey signed the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty in 2013, but has not ratified it. As such, Ankara does not require risk assessment for potential human harm before weapons sales.

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