Ethiopia: what led the country on verge of civil war?

Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa; the regions which share a long history of border conflict and political unrest are heading on the way to civil war. Hundreds of deaths are reported almost every day in the clash between the country’s military and forces faithful for the Tigray region.

But what cause have pushed the country on the verge of civil war?

What has caused the conflict?

Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister who reshaped Ethiopia and won the Nobel Peace Prize; is confronting one of the toughest leadership tests of his life.

In September, elections were scheduled in the Tigray. But in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, the ruling government decided to postpone the election throughout the country. This has caused a rage in the Tigray region; which soon resulted in rapid conflicts between the national army can Tigray forces.

Tigray forces were accused of attacking and capturing a national military base in Mekelle the regional capital. Though the forces have denied the act; prime minister Abiy Ahmed has issued a statement of “a military offensive” against the forces.

The political history of Ethiopia

The recent acts may have caused the ongoing conflicts in Ethiopia; but the country have a long history of political tensions ever since Abiy Ahmed came into power.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is a political party; which have dominated the country’s politics for decades after the dethroning of Marxist leader Mengistu Haile Mariam, 1919. Since then TPLF has played a vital role in government alliance, country’s economy and in running Tigray until 2018.

In 2018, Abiy Ahmed after being elected as “reformist leader”; denied following TPLF’s single-party policy. The newly elected prime minister dismissed the key TPLF leaders from the central government; accusing the party of human rights violations and corruption.

Some leaders of TPLF were ordered to be arrested for their misdeeds; most of which flee to the Tigray region where TPLF rules till date. In 2019, Mr Abiy proposed to merge all the base parties that form up EPRDF alliance (governing party); into one as Prosperity Party (PP). This unification further annoyed TPLF saying that it will divide Ethiopia and therefore parted itself from the unified PP.

Even after the national government postponed the elections nationwide; TPLF planned to take its own elections in the Tigray region in September; which the government blamed it to be illegal. Since then both the federal government and TPLF have been accusing one another to be “illegitimate and unconstitutional”.

Depression Gerbmichael, Tigray region’s leader stated in August; “We will never back down for anyone who is intending to suppress our hard-won right to self-determination and self-rule”.

Why is TPLF against the federal government?

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for ending the nation’s time-hallowed adversary with the neighbouring country Eritrea. Eritrea shares a lengthy borderline with the Tigray region of Ethiopia, and the border has been on conflict for decades. The town of Badme is one of the most conflicted areas between the two countries.

The UN-backed border commission passed its ruling to give the authority of Badme to Eritrea, which the Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, wants Ethiopia to follow. But TPLF is completely against the decision, they think that prime minister Abiy Ahmed is overlooking Tigray’s interests.

Mr Debrestsion has also accused that Eritrean forces have joined the Ethiopian national army in the ongoing conflict. Though both the government have denied the accusation.

The worsening condition of the conflict in Ethiopia

In the conflicted zone, internet and phone line have completely been shut. The Ethiopian government says it is tough to exactly tell the number of causalities because forces are still in the zone, trading fires. The government have said that till now an estimate of 550 fighters has lost their lives.

Redwan Hussein, spokesperson of Ethiopia’s State of Emergency Task Force; in a news conference said that “when the government takes control of territory, they will collect bodies and count”.

According to Amnesty International, more than hundreds of civilians in the western edge of the conflict have been killed. Still who is responsible for the killing of these civilians is not clear but witnesses who survived reported, that TPLF-affiliated militias attacked the residence with knives and axes.

Refugees from the conflicted zone are fleeing into other parts of Ethiopia and neighbouring country like Sudan. According to the United Nation’s refugee agency, about 7000 Ethiopians flee to Sudan. According to the UN, about 100,000 people have internally displaced into safer parts of Ethiopia, even before the conflict began.

What is to come?

Ever since Abiy came into power, he has been attacked multiple times. The war was somethings that can be anticipated from the beginning; ending up a decade of built-up grievances always had the probability of someday exploding into war.

Both the sides are well equipped and ready for war, but the concern is of over 100 million people living the conflicted zone. The African Union have called for an immediate ceasefire but the government have made it clear that they would not stop until the TPLF leaders are in custody.