Conflict rages in Tigray as Ethiopians hold large anti-US protest

6 million of Ethiopia’s 110 million population reside in Tigray where the Ethiopian Federal Government has led a full onslaught that dislodged the TPLF from major cities and towns with the TPLF opting for guerilla fighting instead. With over 6 months of fighting, there is mounting pressure from all quarters to see it come to an end. 

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The war in Tigray is shielded from the outside world as access for journalists is restricted. Ethiopian soldiers are fully engaged in a manhunt for Tigray’s ousted leaders who are now in hiding. AP reports that troops from neighboring Eritrea are fighting on the side of the Ethiopian government, despite international calls for their withdrawal. 

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Reports from Aljazeera estimate over 10,000 people took part in an anti-US demonstration across Ethiopia. The swarm of people showed their support for Abiy Ahmed’s government while carrying banners denouncing any form of outside interference in the current situation. 

This show of pro-government support was organized by the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth. It also comes in the wake of travel restrictions imposed by the United States, who describe the developments in Tigray as “unacceptable.” The US has imposed wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia until the situation improves. 

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Among the atrocities reported are extrajudicial killings, gang rapes, and forced evictions which have prompted calls for a probe on war crimes. AP reports that this is according to aid groups, eyewitnesses, and local authorities. It is feared that thousands of innocent civilians have died from the conflict thus far with over 2 million displaced. 

Back in March after a report by CNN and the UK’s Channel 4 on cases of rape and looting in Tigray, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed promised to hold any soldier responsible for the crimes accountable. He however took to Twitter to describe the allegations as “TPLF propaganda of exaggeration.”  

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In a statement issued by Abiy’s administration, Ethiopia warned that continuous meddling with its international affairs will force it to “reassess its relations with the United States.”

This crisis began in November right after Ethiopia accused leaders of the TPLF of ordering an attack on an Ethiopian army base stationed in the region. 

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Ethiopia is not only facing mounting international pressure over the conflict in Tigray but also remains in conflict with Egypt over the filling of the $4 billion GERD dam on the Blue Nile. Addis argues that the dam is vital in meeting the country’s power generation needs. Despite the endless back and forth mediation attempts by the African Union, the country insists it will resume filling of the dam in July and August whether a deal is reached or not with Sudan and Egypt. Signs of heightened escalation are evident as Egypt and Sudan held joint war drills on May 26 that involved the air, naval, and ground forces. This 6-day training was dubbed “Guardians of the Nile”.