On Thursday, the Ethiopian army said it was “at war” with the ruling party in the country̵7;s northern Tigray region.
“Our country has entered a war that they did not anticipate. This war is shameful, it’s meaningless,” Berhanu Jula, deputy commander of the army, told AFP news agency AFP news agency. reporter.
These developments increase the likelihood of Ethiopia’s already fragile federal system further cracking and possibly dragging Eritrea’s army with it.
The current round of tensions in Tigray started in August when Abiy’s government postponed scheduled elections because it thought the risk of Covid-19 was too high.
Tigray officials cried and held their own elections in September, with more than two million people participating in the vote.
In retaliation, the federal government withheld funding from the TPLF leader in Mekelle, promising to send it directly to local leaders instead. It sets off a series of tit-for-tat rhetoric and rhetoric between regional and federal governments that have been steadily building.
Foreign observers and diplomats are increasingly worried that the situation could escalate significantly within the Tigray and beyond.
But didn’t Abiy Ahmed get the Nobel Peace Prize?
Yes, he did. The Nobel Committee awarded Abiy the prestigious award for his role in ending conflict with Eritrea and promoting major reforms in Ethiopia.
The direct conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea lasted from 1998 to 2000 with considerable losses on both sides. But the two-year war resulted in a long and dangerous standoff and cooperation completely frozen.
After taking power, Abiy moved quickly to normalize relations with President Eritrean Isaias Afwerki, in part, by accepting an international commission’s ruling on the boundary between the two countries. The détente angered some at Tigray, who had taken on the brunt of the conflict.
But Abiy also made important moves towards reform at home. He lifted the emergency and released thousands of political prisoners (though he jailed some opponents). He has also turned to opening up the telecommunications industry and expanding private investment.
But his promises to hold free and fair elections were not fulfilled and political outrage and violence were growing in the country.
Is stress limited to Tigray?
The recession in Tigray over the past few months is partly responsible for the greater tension that has been holding Ethiopia for generations.
The country is comprised of 10 regions – and two cities – with considerable autonomy, including regional police and militia. Because of the prolonged conflict with Eritrea, there was also a large number of federal troops at Tigray. The regional governments were largely divided along entrenched clans.
Abiy comes to power in 2018 promising to break those divisions. He formed a national coalition called the Prosperity Party, but the TPLF refused to join, partly because the new coalition broke the TPLF’s dominance in government – a dominance that has lasted from the start. 1990s.
Part of Abiy’s political appeal builds on the “Medemer” or “synergy” campaign – a sense of national unity that transcends regional and national identity. Officials in Tigray and other regions have complained that Abiy is just trying to consolidate his power from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
And while there are still a significant number of believers in Ethiopian identity, Abiy’s rule, celebrated internationally, has seen a marked increase in ethnic and political tensions in some regions of the country, often leading to deadly consequences.
What is at stake?
For Africa’s second-most populous country and more than 100 million Ethiopian citizens, especially those living in Tigray, events this week could add to feelings of distrust of the federal government. state and prime minister. A stable Ethiopia is crucial for the Horn of Africa region.
Ethiopia has received hundreds of millions of US dollars in military aid and is a key US ally in fighting extremist groups in neighboring Somalia.
For now, the US, one of Abiy’s key foreign allies, appears to support the prime minister’s stance on the alleged TPLF attacks.
But Abiy’s real problem since coming to power has not been losing friends abroad – it’s about feuding back home.