Is the civil war in Ethiopia inevitable?

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed decided to send troops into the Tigray region on the 4th of November. Since then, an increasing number of Ethiopians have been asking themselves whether a civil war is inevitable. Although there were tensions between the ruling camp and the party from the Tigray region, the drastic steps that were taken by Nobel prize-winning Abiy Ahmed shocked the world. 

Ahmed justified his decision with the claim that regional troops had attached a federal military base. However, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) denied that the attack took place and have accused the prime minister of fabricating his claim. Troops loyal to the TPLF quickly took action and the crisis escalated rapidly.  

There are significant historical issues which impact the current situation. In 1989, the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam was close to collapse. In response, the TPLF, along with other ethnically based opposition movements, formed the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition. Their forces entered Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, in 1991 and forced the dictator to leave Ethiopia. The EPRDF, along with other parties, created a Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE) and began leading Ethiopia. The Transitional Government of Ethiopia introduced an ethnic federal system of governance which eventually led to the rise of ethnonationalism which weakened unified Ethiopia. 

In 2018, after the unexpected resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn, Abiy Ahmed was announced as the new prime minister of Ethiopia. Ahmed ended the war with Eritrea and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He also reconfigured the EPRDF into a single party rather than a coalition. This was negatively received by members of the TPLF who had long dominated the coalition. The TPLF refused to approve the change but Ahmed pushed ahead with the reconfiguration. Ahmed removed all of the TPLF ministers from his cabinet, angering Tigrayans who complained of unfair treatment. 

Ahmed’s decision led to ongoing tensions between the government and the TPLF. In September, the Tigray region organised elections despite orders from the government. The elections were stated to be illegal. 

The Tigray region is situated on the border with Eritrea, a country Ethiopia was at war with. Thus, the Tigray region is an extremely well equipped military territory. Both the government and the TPLF claim huge successes in battle. However, there is no electricity in the region making it difficult to confirm either side’s claims. 

Over 8,000 people have decided to leave their homes and cross the border into Sudan. With no electricity, blocked roads, and closed banks it is difficult to for these people to acquire essential assistance. The UN claim that before the conflict there were 600,000 people in Tigray using the organisation’s support. This number has undoubtedly increased. 

Neighbouring countries have expressed concern that the conflict might destabilise the region. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and  The African Union have called for the conflict to cease and negotiations to resume. However, Ahmed’s office has stated that ‘Negotiation makes sense only when there is good faith and a desire for peace.’

Barbara Jankowiak

Featured Image Source: Wikipedia