Ethiopia Tigray conflict

For over a week, Ethiopian government forces have declared war against the regional government of Tigray in the country’s North. Thus far unconfirmed reports indicate the loss of hundreds of lives. 

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered the attack following a number of attacks on the Ethiopian military last week. The attacks were ordered by the rival Tigray People's Liberation Front. Thousands have lost their lives as government planes pummel targets across the Tigray region.

Heightened rhetoric from both sides is setting the stage for a potential escalation of a full-blown conflict. Fears of a spillover from the destabilization are seen as refugees begin to pour into Sudan. 

In a worst-case scenario, the conflict will pour into neighboring Sudan which is currently embroiled in a delicate transition of its own. Somalia on the other side is facing their Islamist insurgency ordeal. 

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How did this conflict start?

As with most conflicts in the horn of Africa, the genesis is a deep-rooted power struggle from 2018 when Prime Minister Abiy ascended to power through a popular uprising. He ushered in democratic reforms and took a diplomatic approach to end the political instability within the country. In a bold move, he dismantled the ruling party Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front that had clang to power for three decades. 

EPRDF was a coalition of ethically assembled parties of which the Tigray People's Liberation Front dominated the group amassing a great deal of influence and power as an ethnic minority. Tigrayans are only 6% of the total Ethiopian population according to the last census in Africa’s second-most populous country. 

After sidelining leaders of the TPLF region, they retreated to their homes in the northern part of Ethiopia. Abiy has thus far accused them of trying to destabilize the smooth running of the country.

According to communication from the PM’s office, he accused the TPLF of orchestrating ethnic violence from regions across the country. The report cited intelligence but gave no hard proof. Violence has affected over 3 million people within the last two years. 

The TPLF is against what they deem as the unfair extension of the federal government’s tenor. In a show of defiance, they rejected Abiy’s orders by carrying out their own regional elections without the need for the electoral commission. The federal government immediately reacted to the open defiance by declaring the Tigray elections unconstitutional resulting in an open legitimacy debate. 

The TPLF disassociated with the attack on its television station and the region president Debretsion Gebremichael called for dialogue. A letter sent to the African Union accused the government of a power grab, imprisoning their opponents and turning the country into an ethnic federal state. 

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The fighting

Internet and phone lines are down making communication from the front line impossible. The Ethiopian military claims to have killed as many as 550 fighters. As live-fire exchanges continue, the death toll is expected to rise. 

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Ethiopia Tigray conflict

Tigray, Ethiopia