WED, NOV 11, 2020
As conflict breaks out in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, Africa Center experts react and analyze what this means for the country and its neighbors.
AFRICASOURCE BY AFRICA CENTER
War in the Tigray region of Ethiopia
On November 4, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive against forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which is the governing authority of the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray. Coming after months of rising tensions between the TPLF and the Abiy administration, the latest military action was precipitated by an alleged surprise night-time assault by the TPLF on a major Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) base in Tigray that resulted in the killing of non-Tigrayan soldiers and the attempted looting of heavy artillery and weapons. Declaring that the assault on the federal army base had “crossed the last red line,” Prime Minister Abiy maintains that his hand was forced by the TPLF leadership into sending the army “to save the country and the region.” More than a week on, the military operation is still reportedly targeting Tigray’s militia establishments and the TPLF leadership, and not its citizens—though there are worrying reports of civilian casualties, which are difficult to confirm due to an Internet and telephone blackout imposed by the government on the entire Tigray region. The Council of Representatives has also imposed a state of emergency on Tigray, effectively isolating it from the rest of Ethiopia.
For the judicious observer of Ethiopia’s ethnic politics, there have been signs of ominous tensions between Tigray and the central government since Abiy came to power two years ago. The TPLF had held a stranglehold on power for decades, since taking power in 1991. Following a months-long popular revolt that ushered him to power in early 2018, Abiy swiftly curbed the TPLF’s dominance over Ethiopia’s political and economic life, leaving its leaders feeling targeted and purged. The President of the Tigray region charged the Prime Minister with trying to ‘sideline and even criminalize’ the TPLF.