Whats going on?
To understand the conflict in Ethiopia, you must first know that it has been restless in that area for a long time. Because it is quite complicated.
After a civil war in 1991, Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) gained power in the country for nearly thirty years. When that party ruled the country, it also waged a war with neighbouring Eritrea. There were tens of thousands of people killed. But many people in Ethiopia disagreed with how TPLF ruled in the country. So they went out into the street. For years.
Until 2018, when the current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power. He called the years that TPLF was in power in Ethiopia: “the years of darkness”. Abiy sent home all kinds of officials and ministers who worked for TPLF. He also restored the relationship with Eritrea.
The TPLF withdrew to their own region in northern Ethiopia: Tigray. Thats where she pursued their own politics. There were supposed to be elections this year, but they were postponed by the Prime Minister because of Corona. Tigray disagreed with that. They decided to organise their own elections on 9 September. They won almost all the seats. Prime Minister Abiy declared the election invalid. The government also stopped financing the region and dismissed officials and ministers from the TPLF. This was the straw for Tigray.
“ It upset Tigray that the central government did not recognise the elections, stopped the money, and that their power was limited. They have been completely expelled into their own territory. They disagree with that,” says East Africa expert Binyam Andebrhan.
Militias of TPLF, which are groups of civilians who have taken on military duties, attacked the military headquarters in early November to seize weapons there. It was enough for Abiy. He then sent the army to Tigray. And now theres fierce fighting.
In Tigray, hundreds of civilians have been killed since then. Prime Minister Abiy says the mass murder is caused by rebellious militias in the region.
Meanwhile, Eritrea is also involved in the conflict with Tigray, “That is good for them, because the country has been arguing with Tigray for a long time over pieces of land. TPFL refuses to give certain areas to Eritrea,” says Binyam. Last weekend, the TPLF fired at least three missiles at the capital of Eritrea.
Who finds what?
But what does Tigray want? According to Binyam, this is very simple: “They prefer autonomy, which means that they become completely independent and have their own government in the area. They will no longer belong to Ethiopia.”
Ethiopia is a country where many different populations live. Almost every region has its own group, one being larger than the other. “But what you see at the same time is that many of those groups are getting up now. TPFL has given them ideas. They also stand up against the central government and do not really like their way of government. They prefer to have their own administration and rule in their own region,” says Binyam.
And Prime Minister Abiy doesnt want that. “He likes to keep the country together. There is now fear that Ethiopia is falling apart. And to prevent that from happening, hes using violence against Tigray, because Abiy says its the only way to keep the territories near Ethiopia. He also says, “If we do nothing, the country will fall apart.”
Sudan says they expect 200,000 Ethiopian refugees to cross the border in the next few days. Meanwhile, the area is closed off from the internet and telephony. Nearly 900 emergency workers can hardly make contact with the outside world. According to a UN aid organisation, the supply of medicines and food has stalled.