March 26, 2021
Reported by: Eugene Omondi
Found in the north of Ethiopia and over 900 kilometres from the capital Addis Ababa, the Tigray region is home to the Tigrayian people as well as the Irob and Kunama people.
The region is considered to be the cradle of Ethiopian existence as this is where the Italian colonial invasive force was defeated but recently, we have seen that if not checked, it will be just where Ethiopia’s civilization begins to fall.
Ever since November 2020, war has consumed the Tigray region. This was sparked when the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, ordered a military campaign against Tigray’s Tigrayian People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
To stomp them out politically, Tigrayian People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was formed in the year 1975 and was meant to be a solution for those who were seeking to get liberated in both the Middle East and Africa as well.
Their rise to power has been a very rapid one. In 1977, they had 2000 fighters and a year later, they had an army that was double what they had just a year earlier.
They continued to grow their bases and control over Tigray, and even allied with the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF). With the army being huge enough, they took control of the capital, Addis Ababa, and the leader Meles Zanawi swooped in and with his close colleagues took hold of key positions in the government. This saw Mekelle receive infrastructural advantages. However, Mr. Zanawi, unfortunately, met his demise in 2012 and his successor, Halemariam Desalegn, was too weak to take over.
This saw Debretsion Gebremichael take charge. Discontent, especially among the two largest ethnic groups – the Oromo and Amhara – threatened the delicate compromise of the 1994 constitution, and representatives of the two communities eventually joined forces to outmanoeuvre the TPLF within the ruling coalition to get Abiy, who is of mixed Oromo-Amharic parentage, appointed as prime minister in 2018.
The TPLF weren’t and still aren’t in favour of this decision and they have refused to release wanted fugitives or join a new political party since they are likely to lose the bigger percentage of government.
The spark that lit the match came in November 2020 where there was an alleged raid by the Front’s operatives on military bases in Tigray where a high number of soldiers were killed and a heavy amount of hardware taken by the said insurgents.
It was at that moment when Prime Minister Abiy launched his assault. Over 200,000 people have been displaced and over 4.5 million people need assistance, says the United Nations.
While the government has captured or killed dozens of fugitives T.P.L.F. leaders, many more remain at large. On Jan. 31, the T.P.L.F. leader and former president of Tigray, Debretsion Gebremichael, said the party was committed to “extended resistance”, raising the prospect of a long and brutal guerrilla war.
The Prime Minister categorically stated that he aims to unite the country by increasing the federal’s government rule and reduce the influence brought about by regional powers, but that wasn’t received positively in the Tigray region and Oromo as well.
This ongoing civil unrest is a result of tension that has been brewing since Prime Minister Abey came into power in 2018. Tigray defied a directive by the central government to halt all regional elections due to the coronavirus pandemic. The lawmakers in the capital decided to have the federal government cut funding to that region as a punishment, thus incensing the Tigrayian leaders.
The ripple Effect
War is an unfortunate occurrence that if not prevented, can bring about very grave consequences. As is being seen in Ethiopia, the ongoing strife has forced people to flee their homes in Tigray in search of safer areas. Most of them are going towards Sudan where they are settling in refugee camps.
This is said to be the largest exodus that Ethiopia has seen in almost two decades with a number of roughly 50,000 Ethiopian nationals and counting having fled their homes seeking asylum in the neighbouring countries of Sudan and Eritrea.
The Tigrayans have found themselves being caught in between indiscriminate military shelling and a campaign that has now unfortunately been characterized by killing, rape, and looting by government-allied ethnic militias.
The war has already sent more than 50,000 civilians to flee to Sudan for safety, a sign of the region’s worsening humanitarian situation. It is believed that the involvement of Eritrea will strengthen the Ethiopian government’s chances of winning the war while the fighting seems to be escalating and looking more deadly.
This will result in a lot more refugees coming out of the conflict itself. The entry of Eritrea will give Abiy Ahmed an upper hand in that he will be able to use the Eritrean forces, their expertise, and understanding of the terrain because all these are Tigrayians.
The government said that they could handle the war but they have since brought in some troops from neighbouring Somalia to go to the battlefront in Tigray. This now puts the stability in Somalia in jeopardy.
Other effects that have been brought about by the Tigrayian crisis are lack of communication since the federal government has cut off internet and phone lines to the region and blocked transport routes.
Worst of all, the military action has already damaged Abiy’s international image as a reformer seeing that he received his Nobel peace prize only a year before.
The conflict that is currently underway in Tigray will erupt into a full-blown crisis if not checked soon. Ethiopia, a very populous country would ruin its international image if they let this war go past the way it’s already bad.
The aforementioned effects are just but a few of what the citizens will go through as an effect of this.