Ethiopia’s Instability Threatens to Engulf Region

In a country plagued by years of ethnic violence, analysts fear the latest fighting between government troops and regional paramilitary forces in Ethiopia could be the breaking point.

“We are not on the brink of civil war, Ethiopia is in the midst of a civil war,” said Kjetil Tronvoll, professor of peace and conflict studies at Bjørknes University in Oslo, Norway.

The violence occurred in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region after fighters loyal to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a political party, attacked a federal government position last week in what the government called an attempt to loot weapons and equipment. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responded by ordering airstrikes and sending in troops to put down the uprising.

Early reports say hundreds have died in the fighting. There has been an internet shutdown since the beginning of the unrest, a factor that analysts say is leading to a lack of information to assess humanitarian needs.

Tensions have been building since Sept. 9 when Tigray, the northernmost of Ethiopia’s nine regional states, defiantly held a regional election after Abiy postponed the polls, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysts are questioning whether Abiy, who called the Tigray election illegal, can keep the country together.

“The conflict between the federal authorities and TPLF might be the straw which breaks the camel’s back,” Tronvoll told VOA. “You have the potential of a serious, serious weakening of central authorities in Ethiopia. It is an extremely dire situation and I think it is very hard to see that things will return back to normality as it was before the conflict. The divisions are running too deep for that.”

In a country plagued by years of ethnic violence, analysts fear the latest fighting between government troops and regional paramilitary forces in Ethiopia could be the breaking point.

“We are not on the brink of civil war, Ethiopia is in the midst of a civil war,” said Kjetil Tronvoll, professor of peace and conflict studies at Bjørknes University in Oslo, Norway.

The violence occurred in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region after fighters loyal to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a political party, attacked a federal government position last week in what the government called an attempt to loot weapons and equipment. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responded by ordering airstrikes and sending in troops to put down the uprising.

Early reports say hundreds have died in the fighting. There has been an internet shutdown since the beginning of the unrest, a factor that analysts say is leading to a lack of information to assess humanitarian needs.

Tensions have been building since Sept. 9 when Tigray, the northernmost of Ethiopia’s nine regional states, defiantly held a regional election after Abiy postponed the polls, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysts are questioning whether Abiy, who called the Tigray election illegal, can keep the country together.

“The conflict between the federal authorities and TPLF might be the straw which breaks the camel’s back,” Tronvoll told VOA. “You have the potential of a serious, serious weakening of central authorities in Ethiopia. It is an extremely dire situation and I think it is very hard to see that things will return back to normality as it was before the conflict. The divisions are running too deep for that.”

 

Source: Voice of America