Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for widespread political reforms. And now, the country faces consequences as a result of shifts in power. This crisis has been building for months.
So what exactly happened?
In 2018, Ethiopia’s ruling coalition appointed Abiy Ahmed as prime minister. This was to help calm months of anti-government protests. His move won a global praise, which led to a Nobel Peace Prize, for opening political space and curbing repressive measures in the country of some 110 million people and scores of ethnic groups. But the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a political party in Ethiopia, felt marginalized and, last year, withdrew from the ruling coalition.
One major reason for the withdrawal was that the TPLF objects to Ethiopia’s delayed election, which was blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, extending Abiy’s time in office.
In September, the Tigray region defied the coalition and voted in a local election. The Ethiopian federal government called it illegal. The federal government later moved to divert funding from the TPLF executive to local governments, angering the regional leadership.
Tigray leader, Debretsion Gebremichael, warned that a bloody conflict could erupt.
On Wednesday, November 4, communications were cut in Ethiopia’s heavily armed northern Tigray region. Abiy announced that he had ordered troops to respond to an alleged deadly attack by Tigray’s forces on a military base there.
No one takes the blame of starting the conflict, as both sides have accused each other of initiating the fighting.
On Thursday, November 5, Ethiopia’s army said it was deploying troops from around the country to Tigray. The Tigray leader unflinchingly announced: “we are ready to be martyrs.” The conflict resulted to casualties on both sides.
On Friday, November 5, Abiy announced that his government had carried out airstrikes in the “first round of operation” against the TPLF, while the Tigray region is increasingly cut off.
The TPLF’s paramilitary force and local militia have some 250,000 troops. With that much power in the opposition party, it is clear why a civil war could break out in the country.
The conflict which is currently just in Tigray could spread to other parts of Ethiopia. Some regions have been calling for more autonomy and this could be a perfect opening to seek it out.
Talks of a conversation and negotiation are debunked as the TPLF said it’s not interested in negotiating with the federal government.
Communications are still cut in Tigray, so the news of internal happenings are unknown.
The Ethiopian government has debunked any talk of a national war: “the war will end here.”