“Civilians are paying a huge price for war,” says Gutu Wayessa, a researcher at the University of Helsinki.
In Ethiopia the civil war that began last November shows no signs of ending. In July and August, fighting between rebel forces and the government has spread from Tigray State to neighboring Afar and Amhara.
Fighting has taken place on several fronts, despite the ceasefire declared by the administration. Dozens of civilians have died and the number of people fleeing their homes has increased by 200,000 in Amhara alone.
“The situation is very, very serious. Civilians are paying a huge price for war. We don’t know what will happen in a few days or weeks unless humanitarian aid reaches those in need, ”says a researcher in global development research at the University of Helsinki. Gutu Wayessa.
Progress is expected According to The Economist to take over the roads and railways to neighboring Djibouti. 95% of the landlocked Ethiopian trade passes through them.
Ethiopia is the second most populous country in all of Africa, with a population of over 110 million. It was the first independent African member of the League of Nations and the United Nations.
However, the superpower of the Horn of Africa has been plagued by internal conflicts since the 1970s, which are also rooted in the current civil war.
According to Gutu Wayessa, resolving the crisis peacefully is difficult when the positions of the warring parties are known.
“They do not recognize each other: The Ethiopian government does not recognize the Tigray regional government, which was elected in September 2020. The Tigray government, on the other hand, does not recognize the central government because it has exceeded its authority and postponed the election unconstitutionally.”
The state of Tigray had been the prime minister on bad terms Abiy Ahmedin with the administration for longer. Elections in the state of Tigray in September, threatening a central government moratorium, definitively escalated the gap between the parties.
The conflict escalated into arms in early November when the government claimed the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) had attacked a state military base.
Conflict its roots go back to the 1970s and 1980s. At the time, the TPLF fought to overthrow the Ethiopian military junta.
Eventually, the Communist junta was ousted in 1991. The TPLF became the leading party in a four-party coalition, despite the fact that only 6 to 7 percent of the entire Ethiopian population is tigers.
The largest population group in the country is Oromo, which makes up 34 percent of the population. The second largest group of amharas covers 27 percent of the population.
The TPLF-led coalition of power and opposition parties created a system in Ethiopia in which ethnic groups ruled their own states. During the reign of the TPLF-led coalition, the economy grew and the country stabilized, but at the same time, the regime was accused of human rights abuses and silencing the political opposition.
Dissatisfaction finally grew into years of protests. In the end, the current prime minister Abiy Ahmed, Oromo, became Prime Minister in April 2018.
“He also apologized to the people for the treatment of the previous regime. It was then literally stated that the regime had terrorized the people, ”Wayessa says.
Abiy had himself been involved in the coalition, which is why the TPLF expected him to continue its legacy. Contrary to expectations, Abiy ended the ethnic parties and pushed the Tigray people aside. He also formed a new Prosperity Party, to which the TPLF refused to join.
“He wanted to refocus political power by founding the Prosperity Party. It became members as individuals, not as a coalition through parties or groups. TPLF refused to join. ”
According to Wayessa, the new party and arrangement also raised concerns among opposition parties as well as a large part of the people.
Reforms was seen as an effort to make Ethiopia a more liberal and democratic country. Tens of thousands of political prisoners were released, according to Wayessa, and previously banned or deported political groups, activists and the media were welcomed.
Abiy also made peace with neighboring Eritrea, which, along with democratization efforts, brought him the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2019.
Despite Abiy relinquishing media censorship and legalizing opposition groups, many parties, as well as some politicians in the regime, accused the prime minister of attempting to centralize power and destroy the Ethiopian federal system created by the 1995 constitution.
Abyi’s efforts to democratize also raised obstacles to the dissolution of dissatisfaction that had matured in the country for a long time.
Read more: The dismantling of the Ethiopian repressive machinery brought the Nobel Peace Prize, but now the divisions between the ethnic groups are intensifying – a lost minority threatens to go its own way
Eventually, the prime minister ended up responding to gravel sounds like previous administrations: he imprisoned his opponents, let police treat the protesters brutally, and put pressure on the country’s media.
“It was a dramatic turnaround. We thought the country was really on its way to becoming more democratic, ”Wayessa says.
Administration after the change of line, the announcement of the postponement of the elections garnered a lot of criticism. The transfer was suspected to be political, although it was justified by a coronavirus pandemic.
According to Wayessa, the Aby government had first rejected requests from several other parties to postpone the election, for example due to unrest across the country.
“Many parties were ready to move, but not by the unilateral decision of the Prosperity Party. It would have been desirable to agree on it by consensus, ”says Wayessa.
Abiyn funding was first cut from Tigray State, which defied the administration and held elections. Following alleged attacks on bases, an armed conflict erupted on 4 November.
Just over three weeks later, the Ethiopian army declared it defeated the Tigray Defense Front. It took over, among other things, the state capital Mekellen. However, the TPLF vowed to continue the fight.
In June, however, the still life turned around. Tigray’s troops took over from the Ethiopian army and Mekelle regained control.
At this point, it was no longer just the TPLF, but there were also a lot of people from outside the party and its troops.
Reported from the battlefield The New York Times considers it an essential reason for Tigray’s successful retaliation against the unification of the inhabitants against a common enemy. Not everyone in the state was happy with the TPLF, but everyone seemed to agree with the evil of the Ethiopian army.
Army robberies, rapes, and massacres of civilians united Tigray. Thousands of volunteers joined the state defense force. The UN has stated that both sides have committed atrocities. However, the Ethiopian military is thought to have committed more crimes.
Elsewhere in Ethiopia, there are also volunteers in the ranks of the Aby administration, at least according to the prime minister himself.
“He told Parliament he could mobilize millions of young people. Some are sent to the front lines with really little training, which is worrying, ”Wayessa says.
The administration has not yet expressed its willingness to negotiate. It still classifies the TPLF as a terrorist organization.
Tigrayn troops leading Gen Tsadkan Gebretensae told the BBCthat fighting in neighboring states is aimed at ending the administrative closure. It also calls for an end to the persecution of Tigray people, the release of political prisoners and dialogue on the future of the region.
For example The New York Times said last week the administration unofficially shut down traffic on the main road leading to Tigray. The administration has also been reported to have blocked humanitarian access to the area, for example through checkpoints and flight restrictions.
The administration has denied the allegations about its brackets and made its own accusations. It says aid workers favor and even arm Tigray forces. In addition, the administration has also been told to order Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) to suspend their relief operations in the country.
On Wednesday, the Ethiopian government said the three-month suspension order was due to misinformation disseminated by organizations and missing work permits, according to AFP.
According to the UN, there are more than five million people in need in Tigray. The administration did not clarify its claim. In its news, AFP points out that the NRC leader said on Twitter that help would be blocked. MSF publications, on the other hand, condemned the extrajudicial execution of at least four men by soldiers in March.
Investigator Gutu Wayessa stresses that the whole of Ethiopia and its many different groups must be taken into account when considering the conflict and especially its resolution.
“It’s not just about the Tigray Defense Forces and the Ethiopian regime, but the political roots of the conflict should be addressed.”
Wayessa recalls that there are unrest elsewhere in the country. In Oromia, for example, the Oromo Liberation Army has been fighting Ethiopian regime forces for more than two years, the state of Benishangul-Gumuz has been repeatedly attacked and the states of Somalia and Afar are in conflict with each other.
“Any peace talks should involve all political groups,” Wayessa says.