Ethiopia’s forgotten war

man stands on a bridge above an ethiopian highway
Emily Murphy

24th August 2021

 

While the world focuses on helping evacuate and support the people of Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of Kabul, the prolonged conflict in Ethiopia seems to be slipping from public consciousness. In 2019, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending the 20-year border conflict between his nation and Eritrea. It seems that this period of stability was, however, to be short-lived.

 

For more than 20 years, the Ethiopian government has been dominated by a coalition of four ethnic-based groups. The Tigrayan group, who account for 6 per cent of the national population hold a considerable portion of government power. The TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) became the lead member of the government coalition in 1991, after war raged across Ethiopia in the 1970s and 80s. Following discontent and national protests, Abiy Ahmed was eventually appointed prime minister. In 2019, he dissolved the coalition and formed the Prosperity Party with several opposition parties, which the TPLF (controversially) refused to join. In the same year, national elections were also due to take place,  but these were postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. In spite of this, the Tigray province went ahead with local elections, in direct defiance of government orders. The TPLF also alleged that Abiy Ahmed was an illegitimate ruler.

 

More than two million people have fled the region, and there have been at least 10,000 reported deaths with tens of thousands of people are currently seeking refuge in the neighbouring country of Sudan.”

In early November 2020, an offensive operation in Tigray was carried out by the Ethiopian central government after allegations that the Tigrayian forces attacked Ethiopian military infrastructure in the region. This marked the beginning of the latest conflict in Ethiopia. More than two million people have fled the region, and there have been at least 10,000 reported deaths with tens of thousands of people are currently seeking refuge in the neighbouring country of Sudan. However, as communications have been almost entirely cut in the region, it is impossible to calculate exact numbers. The TPLF has been designated a terrorist organisation and have since formed the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) with non-TPLF members.

 

Speaking outside the Security Council Chamber on World Humanitarian Day, United Nations Chief António Guterres said that he is gravely concerned about the “unspeakable violence” against women and others in Tigray. He appealed for forces to “give peace a chance”and urged that “there is no military solution, and it is vital to preserve the unity and stability of Ethiopia.”

 

UN officials have warned that more than 400,000 people in the Tigray region are facing the worst global famine in decades, with an additional 1.8 million people on the brink of a food crisis. Since the conflict began last November, some 5.2 million people are in need of aid, which is being provided by the UN and the Ethiopian central government. On June 28, Tigrayian forces recaptured the region’s capital, Mekelle, and Abiy Ahmed declared an unilateral humanitarian ceasefire. However, the TPLF forces have seemingly ignored his call to action, allegedly continuing to fight and seizing more land in the process.

 

Many experts are now expecting that this unrest and violent discourse will continue in the west of Tigray and focus on the neighbouring Amhara region. There already exists a territory dispute between these two Ethiopian states. Experts also fear that the continued fighting may cause regional instability in a part of the world already consumed by conflict.

 

 

 

Featured photo by Gift Habeshaw

This article was supported by: STAND Business & Politics Editor Sean + Programme Assistant Alex

 

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